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The BooksThere is a certain something in P. G. Wodehouse's precise articulation of lunacy that brings the reader moments of great jollity.
My Man Jeeves
- One of the most hilarious early-morning conversations in fiction:
"What ho!" I said."What ho!" said Motty."What ho! What ho!"After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.
- "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."
- Bertie meets the husband of one of his ex-girlfriends.
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 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!"
- Bertie reflecting on the refining effect of suffering in The Aunt and the Sluggard.
As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to look after them. I'd always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural phenomenon; but, by Jove! of course, when you come to think of it, there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own clothes themselves, and haven't got anybody to bring them tea in the morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don't you know. I mean to say, ever since then I've been able to appreciate the frightful privations the poor have to stick.
- "The funny thing was that he wasn't altogether a fool in other ways. Deep down in him there was a kind of stratum of sense. I had known him, once or twice, show an almost human intelligence. But to reach that stratum, mind you, you needed dynamite."
The Inimitable Jeeves
Bertie: What are the chances of a cobra biting Harold, Jeeves?Jeeves: Slight, I should imagine, sir. And in such an event, knowing the boy as intimately as I do, my anxiety would be entirely for the snake.
- "We Woosters do not lightly forget. At least, we do - some things - appointments, and people's birthdays, and letters to post, and all that - but not an absolutely bally insult like the above."
- Bertie reflects on his place in the family.
As a rule, you see, I'm not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across premieval swamps and Uncle James's letter about Cousin Mabel's peculiar behaviour is being shot round the family circle ('Please read this carefully and send it on Jane') the clan has a tendency to ignore me. It's one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor - and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that.
- The twins arrive.
Claude: Hear that, Eustace? He wishes we were staying a good long time."I expect it will seem a good long time," said Eustace, philosophically.
- Bertie displays his complete lack of tact yet again.
Jeeves: [Harold] is of an outspoken disposition, and had made an opprobrious remark respecting my personal appearance.Bertie: What did he say about your appearance?"I have forgotten, sir," said Jeeves, with a touch of austerity. "But it was opprobrious."
- Bingo falls in love (again) and spends the night outside what he thinks is the girl's window. Turns out it's the butler's window.
- The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace. All of it. Especially when the titular twins have just been expelled from Oxford and Bertie thinks they're on their way to South Africa... and then Claude walks into Bertie's room.
I'd been having so many distorted nightmares since I had dropped off to sleep that for half a minute I thought this was simply one more of them, and the worst of the lot. It was only when Claude sat down on my feet that I got on to the fact that this was stern reality.
Claude: Very sound fellow, Eustace. Probably end up by being a magnate of some kind. I shall watch his future progress with considerable interest. And now you must excuse me for a moment, Bertie. I want to go and hunt up Jeeves and get him to mix me one of those pick-me-ups of his. For some reason which I can't explain, I've got a slight headache this morning.And, believe me or believe me not, the door had hardly closed behind him when in blew Eustace with a shining morning face that made me ill to look at.
- Claude reveals that he's fallen in love with a girl called Marion Wardour, so he "gave Eustace the slip at Waterloo" to come back in hopes of seeing her again. Then he starts talking about Eustace, who he thinks is on a boat bound for South Africa.
...[Claude] came in in person, looking like a giant refreshed. There's no doubt that Jeeves's pick-me-ups will produce immediate results in anything short of an Egyptian mummy. [...] Claude had revived like a watered flower, but he nearly had a relapse when he saw his bally brother goggling at him over the bed-rail.
- Eustace reveals that he's in love with Marion too, and he thinks Claude is en route to South Africa. Then Claude returns.
Aunt Agatha: ...What I was thinking was, are [Claude and Eustace] safe?Bertie: Are they what?It seemed such a rummy adjective to apply to the twins, they being about as innocuous as a couple of sprightly young tarantulas.
- And then, while the twins are staying with Bertie and trying to see which one of them Marion will choose, Aunt Agatha comes to visit, and as far as she knows the two of them are in South Africa.
Aunt Agatha: You do think those poor, dear boys are safe, Bertie? They have not met with some horrible accident?It made my mouth water to think of it, but I said no, I didn't think they had met with any horrible accident. I thought Eustace was a horrible accident, and Claude about the same, but I didn't say so.
- Aunt Agatha then reveals that Uncle George saw what he thought was Eustace's ghost.
Marion: Your cousins not at home, Bertie?Bertie: No, thank goodness!Marion: Then I'll tell you where they are. They're in my sitting-room, glaring at each other from opposite corners, waiting for me to come in. Bertie, this has got to stop.Bertie: You're seeing a good deal of them, are you?Marion: I can't move a step without tripping over one or both of them. Generally both. They've taken to calling together, and they just settle down grimly and try to sit each other out. It's wearing me to a shadow.
- Then poor Marion, the object of the twins' affection, comes to call.
- Claude gives Marion a cigarette case. Then Aunt Agatha visits again, and Bertie learns that it's Uncle George's cigarette case, and Claude stole it.
Carry On, Jeeves
- "What's the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don't yield to them?"
- Bertie's descriptions of people or things are always good for a laugh.
He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who has suddenly remembered that he has forgotten to shove cyanide in the consommé, and the dinner-gong due any moment.
- Bertie meets Sir Roderick.
If ever there was a bloke at the very mention of whose name it would be excusable for people to tremble like aspens, that bloke is Sir Roderick Glossop. He has an enormous bald head, all the hair which ought to be on it seeming to have run into his eyebrows, and his eyes go through you like a couple of Death Rays."How are you, how are you, how are you?" I said, overcoming a slight desire to leap backwards out of the window.
Very Good, Jeeves
- "The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number."
- "Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing glove."
- Bertie forgets his quotations again.
Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can't get it.
- Jeeves demonstrates that when dealing with Bertie, you have to be a Captain Obvious.
Bertie: I will read [Tuppy's telegram] to you. [...] When you come tomorrow, bring my football boots. Also, if humanly possible, Irish water-spaniel. Urgent. Regards. Tuppy. What do you make of that, Jeeves?Jeeves: As I interpret the document, sir, Mr. Glossop wishes you, when you come tomorrow, to bring his football boots. Also, if humanly possible, an Irish water-spaniel. He hints that the matter is urgent, and sends his regards.Bertie: Yes, that is how I read it. But why football boots?Jeeves: Perhaps Mr. Glossop wishes to play football, sir.
- The climactic rugby match in The Ordeal of Young Tuppy:
He was so crusted with alluvial deposits that one realized how little a mere bath would ever be able to effect. To fit him to take his place once more in polite society, he would certainly have to be sent to the cleaner's. Indeed, it was a moot point whether it wouldn't be simpler just to throw him away.
- In "Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit", Jeeves advises Bertie against pursuing Bobbie Wickham, calling her "volatile and frivolous." Later in the story Bertie tells Jeeves that he's about to eat his words: Bobbie just gave him an excellent plan to prank Tuppy Glossop by puncturing his hot water bottle, "and this is the girl you were calling volatile and frivolous."
- In The Love That Purifies, Bertie's cousins Thomas and Bonzo are the subject of a bet: whichever is the most well-behaved until Mr. Anstruther leaves gets five pounds. And then there's The Reveal of why they're both so well-behaved: Bonzo has fallen in love with Lillian Gish, and Thomas is in love with Greta Garbo. And then Sebastian Moon comes along with a crush on Clara Bow...
- Also in The Love That Purifies, Thomas finally snaps and tries to throw a bucket of water at Sebastian. Unfortunately, Sebastian dodges, and poor Mr. Anstruther gets it instead.
[Thomas], for some reason plainly stirred to the depths of his being, moved adroitly to one side and, poising the bucket for an instant, discharged its contents. And Mr Anstruther, who had just moved to the same side, received, as far as I could gather from a distance, the entire consignment. In one second, without any previous training or upbringing, he had become the wettest man in Worcestershire.
Thank You, Jeeves
- "I mean, if you're asking a fellow to come out of a room so that you can dismember him with a carving knife, it's absurd to tack a 'sir' on to every sentence. The two things don't go together."
Right Ho, Jeeves
- The telegram war between Bertie and his Aunt Dahlia. Read it here, in all its glory.
Deeply regret Brinkley Court hundred miles from London, as unable hit you with a brick. Love, Travers.
- Bertie and Jeeves's eyebrow competition.
I consulted Jeeves once more in the language of the eyebrow. He raised one of his. I raised one of mine. He raised his other. I raised my other.
Then we both raised both. Finally, there seeming no other policy to pursue, I flung wide the gates and Tuppy came shooting in.
"Now what?" I said, as nonchalantly as I could manage.
"Why was the door locked?" demanded Tuppy.
I was in pretty good eyebrow-raising form by now, so I gave him a touch of it.
- "And if I portrayed the scene with anything like adequate skill, the picture you will have retained of this Fink-Nottle will have been that of a nervous wreck, sagging at the knees, green about the gills, and picking feverishly at the lapels of his coat in an ecstasy of craven fear."
- And culminating in the aforementioned Gussie Fink-Nottle's epic drunken speech at the Market Snodsbury grammar-school prize-giving, which is often cited as Wodehouse's funniest passage.
- "...Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."
- When Jeeves and Bertie are discussing ringing the fire alarm (like everything else in these books, it Makes Sense In Context), Bertie gets a bit of snark in at Tuppy's Big Eater tendencies.
Jeeves: Possibly you may recollect that it was an axiom of [...] Sherlock Holmes, that the instinct of everyone, upon an alarm of fire, is to save the object dearest to them.Bertie: It seems to me that there is a grave danger of seeing Tuppy come out carrying a steak-and-kidney pie, but resume, Jeeves, resume.
The Code of the Woosters
Joy in the Morning
- The entirety of Joy in the Morning (US: Jeeves in the Morning), but especially the moment at which Bertie finds himself 'a gazelle short.'
Bertie: You don't mind me referring to you as a gazelle, do you, Jeeves?Jeeves: Not at all, sir.
- "It is true of course, that I have a will of iron, but it can be switched off if the circumstances seem to demand it."
- "A hoarse shout from within and a small china ornament whizzing past my head informed me that my old friend was at home."
The Mating Season
- A memorable scene occurs when Police Constable Dobbs, in hot pursuit of Gussie Fink-Nottle, chases him up a tree.
And what [Gussie] expected to get out of this maneuver, only his diseased mind knew. Constable Dobbs may not have been one of Dorsetshire's finest thinkers, but he was smart enough to stand under a tree. And this he proceeded to do. Apparent in the lines of his broad back was the determination to fight it out on these lines if it took all summer [...] I closed my eyes to shut out the painful scene. When I re-opened them [...] I beheld the officer flat on his back in the middle of the road, while Jeeves was replacing something in his pocket which instinct told me was small, serviceable, and made of India-rubber."I coshed the officer, sir," said Jeeves respectfully. "It seemed to me the best course to pursue."
- "In your walks about London you will sometimes see bent, haggard figures that look as if they had recently been caught in some powerful machinery. They are those fellows who got mixed up with Catsmeat when he was meaning well."
Ring for Jeeves
- "It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't."
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
- "Love is a delicate plant that needs constant tending and nurturing, and this cannot be done by snorting at the adored object like a gas explosion and calling her friends lice."
- Bertie, yet again, finds himself in a sticky situation.
I agreed the situation was sticky. Indeed, offhand it was difficult to see how it could have been more glutinous.
Jeeves in the Offing
- Bertie grumbling about how everyone makes him do the things they don't want to.
Whenever there is a job to be taken on of a kind calculated to make Humanity shudder, the cry goes up, "Let Wooster do it."
- Bertie saying that Aunt Dahlia could never read in the paper that he'll be shot at sunrise... because he's never up that early.
Much Obliged, Jeeves
- Bertie's comments on Aunt Dahlia's habit of talking loudly.
I believe that she, when in good voice, could be heard in several adjoining counties.
- Bertie's reaction to hearing Ginger is staying with Aunt Dahlia.
I uttered a joyful cry, and [Aunt Dahlia] said if I did it again, she would sue me, it having nearly cracked her eardrum. A notable instance of the pot calling the kettle black, as the old saying has it, she having been cracking mine since the start of the proceedings.
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
- Bertie snarking at Madeline's melodramatic declaration.
'I hate you, I hate you!' cried Madeline, a thing I didn't know anyone ever said except in the second act of a musical comedy.
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen
- Bertie, about Aunt Dahlia:
If she ever turned into a werewolf, it would be one of those jolly breezy werewolves whom it is a pleasure to know.
- Jeeves reads over Bertie's article on "What the Well-Dressed Man Is Wearing" for Milady's Boudoir:
I watched him narrowly as he read on, and, as I was expecting, what you might call the love-light suddenly died out of his eyes. I braced myself for an unpleasant scene.
"Come to the bit about soft silk shirts for evening wear?" I asked carelessly.
"Yes, sir," said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he'd been bitten in the leg by a personal friend.
- "If that doesn't leave me without a stain on my character, well, then I don't know what it does leave me without a stain on."
The TV series
- The end of the episode "The Hunger Strike," with Bertie's perfectly innocent "Me? W-what have I done?" a few moments after he'd accidentally shot a chandelier off the ceiling with a hunting rifle.
- Whenever Jeeves shows disapproval on any of Bertie's (or Bertie's friends) crazy fashion statements. From a white Mess jacket with brass buttons to a tie with horseshoes on it to Bertie's mustache. Made even funnier with Stephen Fry's wonderful facial expressions.
- Particularly the moment where Rocky reveals that he "dresses" by throwing on a sweater over his pajamas:
Bertie: Don't listen, Jeeves!
Jeeves: [anguished sob]
- Particularly the moment where Rocky reveals that he "dresses" by throwing on a sweater over his pajamas:
- Jeeves convinces Aunt Agatha that she's seeing ghosts. 'Nuff said.
- The Running Gag where Stilton Cheesewright threatens to break Bertie's "rotten spine in three (then four, then five, then six) places!"
- Anytime they take the piss out of Roderick Spode and his "blackshorts".
- The first time we see Bertie kiss a girl, he basically just grabs her and starts making out with her cheek. And then her dad sees them...
- The show's first genuine slice of Ho Yay which comes completely out of nowhere, spoken by Jeeves Disguised in Drag:
Jeeves: Why are you men holding hands like that? Is that some sort of English custom?
- Bertie trying to enlist Jeeves to sing "Minnie the Moocher" with him in the pilot episode.
Jeeves: Hoo-dee hoo-dee hoo, sir.
- In the penultimate episode "Trouble at Totley Towers" when Gussie finally liberates himself from Madeleine Bassett, who's been making him eat a vegetarian diet.
Gussie: In that case, I am going to eat a ham sandwich!
- Bertie puts some whiskey in Gussie's orange juice to help calm his nerves before he gives a speech. Then he finds out Jeeves also did it, and they both look forward with identical Oh Crap! expressions.
"I should say, Fink-Nottle.""Well, of course you should, you silly ass!"