"You will find Mr. Wooster a most amiable young gentleman, but not intelligent. By no means intelligent. Mentally he is negligible; quite negligible."
Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves are fictional characters, created by British author P. G. Wodehouse. They have appeared in many comedic short stories and novels published between 1915 and 1974.Wodehouse's most famous Upper-Class Twit, Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster, is also the character who probably best embodies Wodehouse's gift for language. Bertie may be "mentally negligible", but as narrator of his own adventures he expresses himself with a loopy eloquence virtually unmatched in literature, giving this series its much-beloved Cloudcuckoolander sense of humor.The plots tend to follow a set formula: life would be just about perfect for our single and very wealthy young man-about-London-town were it not for his inability to say no when his even goofier friends and/or imposing aunts come asking favours. Most often these are tied into typically Wodehousean love affairs, rife with comic misunderstanding and convoluted scheming, meaning that Bertie generally finds himself 'accidentally engaged' at least once or twice a book (in a couple cases, on and off over the course of several books). Of course, always the perfect gentleman (as the stern Code of the Woosters dictates), he would never correct a lady......Thankfully, Bertie's Servile Snarkeruber-valet (not butler, though if the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them), Reginald Jeeves, is fully as capable as Bertie is ineffectual. With, apparently, the same effort most people put into buttoning their cuffs — and without so much as a flicker in his coolly correct facade — Jeeves steps in when all seems hopeless, rescues Bertie and/or his friends from their entanglements and restores the status quo. Often several times per book... because the fact that Bertie and co. are involved means there's always a chance the best-laid plans will go awry.Arthur Treacher was well-known as the embodiment of Jeeves in a series of films in the 1930s, with David Niven taking the part of Bertie Wooster. In the Sixties, Ian Carmichael (better known for playing Lord Peter Wimsey) as Bertie and Dennis Price as Jeeves appeared in the TV series The World of Wooster. (It is on record that Wodehouse did not care much for any of these adaptations.)The Jeeves stories were also the basis and inspiration for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves, which was released in 1975 and failed so spectacularly both critically and commercially that it's still thought of as Webber's first real flop. However, in 1996 the musical was reworked, rewritten and re-released as By Jeeves, which was far more successful and got generally positive reviews.Perhaps most famously, the Jeeves stories formed the basis of the popular early '90s series Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, respectively.In 2008, a josei manga adaptation of the Jeeves novels, called Please, Jeeves and drawn by Bun Katsuta, began serialization in Hana to Yume's Melody.
P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories provide examples of:
Abhorrent Admirer: For Bertie, just about every unmarried woman he's ever met. The more likable female characters he meets, such as Cynthia Wickhammersly, tend to have no particular interest in him beyond basic friendship.
Accidental Art: In one of the stories, a pal of Bertie's is having trouble. He wants to paint portraits, but can't get a commission to paint one because he hasn't painted any. He finally gets a commission to paint a portrait of his uncle and benefactor's first baby. It's so horrible that the uncle calls it a fugitive from the funny papers, and cuts the painter off. Jeeves gets the idea that the character in the portrait could be the root of a series on the funny papers entitled "The Adventures of Baby Blobb". It's a hit and the painter becomes rich.
Accidental Athlete: In The Inimitable Jeeves, Jeeves explains how he came to appreciate a local boy's amazing speed thusly:
Blue and Orange Morality: Jeeves, to a degree. He tolerates and even sometimes encourages minor criminal behavior on Bertie's part, but the slightest deviation from a proper gentleman's dress-code is ruthlessly squashed.
Cora Bellinger in "Jeeves and the Song of Songs". Often referred to simply as "The Bellinger" as if she were some type of siege engine.
Hilda Gudgeon in The Mating Season
Honoria Glossop passim.
Break the Haughty: The central plot driver of Right Ho, Jeeves. Besides Jeeves' "pig-headed" opposition to his fashionable new mess jacket, Bertie is completely fed up with his friends and relatives trampling over him in their rush to get his valet's advice. He forbids Jeeves from interfering again and takes everyone's problems on himself. Bertie repeatedly points out the superiority of his ideas to Jeeves' throughout the novel, but they're predictably disastrous for all who implement them. By the time he's forced to haul Jeeves in to fix things, an entire house party is locked outside on a dark night. Jeeves sends Bertie on an eighteen-mile bicycle ride for the only available key... not before smirkingly recounting an anecdote about a horrible bicycle accident. After finding out his journey has been for nothing, a sore and weary Bertie returns home to find everyone celebrating how Jeeves has solved all their troubles. It turns out that Bertie was a cat's-paw in Jeeves' scheme to focus everyone's anger away from each other, and when Jeeves reveals that he's also "accidentally" ruined the mess jacket, Bertie has no choice but to let it all go so long as Jeeves makes him an omelet.
In these novels, wherever there is haughtiness, a reckoning is close at hand. It even befalls Aunt Agatha in one of the short stories.
Celeb Crush: In "The Love that Purifies", Aunt Dahlia has a bet with a friend that her son Bonzo can behave better than Aunt Agatha's offspring Thomas while a mutual acquaintance is staying with Bertie; Bonzo is toeing the line so he can be worthy of movie star Lillian Gish, who he has a big crush on. Unfortunately, Thomas is behaving even better, because he has a crush on Clara Bow. See Berserk Button for how Jeeves deals with the situation.
The Chessmaster: Jeeves constructs his stratagems upon 'the psychology of the individual.' He has been known to lose a battle occasionally, but never the war. When events are particularly fast-paced and outrageous, see Xanatos Speed Chess.
Chick Magnet: Bertie. Not quite as inexplicable as it seems at first glance; he has a lot of money, he's a generally nice (not to say easily manipulated) guy, and — cover illustrations notwithstanding — is implied to be at least pleasant-looking, hence the casting of Hugh Laurie. The downside is that he tends to attract the domineering sort of girl that Aunt Agatha would approve of.
Children Are Innocent: Subverted at every opportunity — if a child appears in a Wodehouse story, nine times out of ten he (it's usually a he) will be an obnoxious grubby little pest. Exemplified by Edwin Craye, the eager Boy Scout from Joy in the Morning; at one point his attempt to 'catch up' on his daily good deeds results in a house burning to the ground (without him in it, unfortunately enough from Bertie's point of view). Later, Bertie's scheme to break up with Edwin's sister by kicking the kid in the backside backfires when it turns out she and her father have also been victims of these 'good deeds', and are profoundly grateful to Bertie.
The Comically Serious: Bertie is sometimes annoyed by the fact that nothing can faze Jeeves, who reacts to the craziest situations with nothing more than a slight raise of an eyebrow.
I doubt if he would do much more than raise an eyebrow if, when entering his pantry, he found one of those peculiar fauna from the Book of Revelations in the sink. (Aunts Aren't Gentlemen)
Compromising Memoirs: Sir Watkin writes his Memoirs and several parties take offense at the depiction of the now respectable pillars of society as the kind of roaring youths that would not have gone out of place in the Drones Club. Oddly enough, this does not include most of the people so depicted, who seem to like the idea that the youth may realise that they too were young once.
Cool Old Lady: Bertie Wooster's Aunt Dahlia Travers, whom he pointedly refers to as "my good aunt," although she has a scary side.
Dark Secret: Jeeves reveals wannabe Fascist leader Roderick Spode's terrible secret to Bertie: Spode also owns a popular ladies' lingerie boutique. Even Bertie quickly catches on to the possibilities for blackmail.
Bertie: You can't be a successful Dictator and design womens' underclothing. One or the other. Not both.
...I cannot say whether La Pulbrook's violin solo was or was not a credit to the accomplices who taught her the use of the instrument. It was loud in spots and less loud in other spots, and had the strange quality that I've noticed in all violin solos of seeming to go on much longer than it actually did.
The one exception is Bertie himself, whom Jeeves himself considers to have a pleasant baritone. This is played up in the Laurie/Fry TV series, where it's combined with The Cast Showoff.
But when Bertie takes up the banjolele in Thank You, Jeeves, he fits the trope once again.
Early-Installment Weirdness: In "Extricating Young Gussie", the first Jeeves and Wooster short story, Bertie's personality and his relationship with Aunt Agatha are all in place, but their family name appears to be "Mannering-Phipps" instead of "Wooster" (although this is changed in later prints). More noticeably, Jeeves appears for all intents and purposes to be an ordinary valet, and when Bertie gets in trouble and needs help, he has no idea who to ask. The surname "Wooster" and the personality of Jeeves as we know him today don't appear until the second story, aptly titled "Leave It to Jeeves".
Many members of the Drones Club go by nicknames, often for excellent reasons; in Thank You, Jeeves, "Chuffy" Chuffnell has gone his whole life concealing that his first name is Marmaduke.
Presumably the only reason young Mr. Glossop lets his friends call him "Tuppy" is because it's preferable to Hildebrand.
Mr. Trotter avoids knighthood for fear of having his first name exposed to public view (it's Lemuel). Rumour has it that his author, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, avoided knighthood for the same reason.
To an extent, Jeeves' first name. It's not so much that 'Reginald' is a particularly embarrassing name or even ill-suited to Jeeves' personality. It's more that he has a first name at all.
Embarrassing Middle Name: Bertie's middle name is Wilberforce, his Uncle Tom's is Portarlington, and Mr. Trotter's is Gengulphus.
Bertie: There's some raw work pulled at the [baptismal] font from time to time, is there not?
Evil Matriarch: Aunt Agatha. Sometimes other evil aunts show up as well, particularly in the earlier stories.
Extreme Doormat: Bertie lets himself be talked into just about anything, and usually on the flimsiest of pretexts. In one story he admits that he could probably join a monastery and get browbeaten into doing something by a silent monk, purely through mime.
Fatal Attractor: Bertie's pal Bingo Little is always falling in love with girls of low social station. Jeeves' scheme to warm up Bingo's uncle to the idea and securing Bingo's allowance through the use of romance novels all focusing on this trope works a little too well, with the uncle marrying his cook and Unable To Support A Wifeand keep giving Bingo the same allowance.
Likewise, Bertie's Uncle George, Lord Yaxley, has a similiar habit; in one story, he falls in love with a waitress. When Jeeves is recruited by Aunt Agatha to break this up, the plan is to reunite George with the barmaid he fell in love with in his youth. They are quickly married before Agatha can stop them.
Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Courtesy of Jeeves, the walking encyclopedia. Lots of characters defer to Jeeves before finishing their thoughts, and he always has ready the exact idiom they were searching for.
Forgetful Jones: "Biffy" Biffen, who has found the girl of his dreams, but can't remember her last name! He could inquire at the hotel, but he can't remember where she's staying. Or where he's staying. It had a big door, and a sort of roof...
Fox Hunting: Aunt Dahlia was an accomplished hunter as a young woman and in the present retained a voice capable of carrying over several counties.
French Cuisine Is Haughty: Aunt Dahlia's French chef Anatole tends to be very temperamental and prone to threatening to quit whenever he feels like his work is not being appreciated.
Genius Book Club: Bertie likes to read mystery novels, while Jeeves prefers the works of the philosopher Spinoza.
Genre Savvy: In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Bertie gets engaged to Florence Craye again. However, he's not too worried about it, because he observed that he always manages to avoid getting married.
Grande Dame: Wodehouse (very likely under the inspiration of W. S. Gilbert) devised every variation imaginable for well over sixty years, from the lovable Aunt Dahlia to Aunt Agatha, who "chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."
Hanging Judge: Madeline's father, Sir Watkyn Bassett, an ex-Magistrate who once presided over Bertie's sentencing hearing for stealing a policeman's helmet on Boat Race Night. Though Bertie escaped with a small fine, the incident planted a seed of paranoia in Bassett, who on their next meeting some years later remembers 'the prisoner Wooster' as a nefarious archvillain... a misunderstanding not exactly cleared by the fact Bertie's only visiting his home in the first place in order to steal his cow-creamer... which Watkyn stole first.
Heel-Face Turn: Sir Roderick Glossop, the noted looney-doctor, over the course of Thank You, Jeeves.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bertie and Jeeves, their official relationship notwithstanding. Several stories open with Bertie defending his habit of deferring to his valet by saying that he considers him more as a 'guide, philosopher and friend'. And when Bertie overhears Jeeves disparaging his intelligence (see the page quote), his reaction is exactly that of a wounded best pal. We're used to watching Jeeves employ ruthless tactics against Bertie to get his way, but in "Bertie Changes His Mind", as we're getting the story from Jeeves' POV, we're also shown a moment when he almost wavers in his plan out of affection for his boss:
Jeeves: I am fond of Mr Wooster, and I confess I came near to melting as I looked at his pale, anxious face.
Hideous Hangover Cure: In the first story, Jeeves gets the job by curing Bertie's hangover, and afterwards often dispenses the concoction following Bertie's latest night on the town. As in Cabaret, Jeeves' mixture includes eggs and Worcestershire sauce.
Hypocritical Humor: In one story, an American matron, described as "the female counterpart to Aunt Agatha", thinks of Bertie as a symbol of England's indulgent and dying aristocracy because he's a high-living socialite who doesn't have a job. She met him in the first place because she was there to see her nephew, who, as far as she knew, was a high-living socialite with no job who he was supporting. She even wanted to try the high life herself. The only real difference is that she thinks Bertie is sponging off the nephew in question by guesting at his house.
The source of several of Bertie's engagements (notably his on/off saga with Madeline Bassett) as the women he's trying to impress on behalf of his friends inevitably assume he's talking about himself.
Played with in one short story: when asked whether Jeeves can acquire a series of romance novels with which Bingo Little can soften his uncle, he replies, "I have an aunt, sir, who has an almost complete set of Rosie M. Banks." There may or may not be such an aunt; certainly Jeeves later shows a great degree of familiarity with their contents.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Madeline Bassett and Florence Craye believe that this is the reason Bertie lets them go. With the distinctly awkward result that they're so impressed by his noble nature they keep taking him back whenever their current fiance displeases them. On the other hand, this is the attitude Roderick Spode genuinely has towards Madeline; they eventually do get married, much to Bertie's relief.
Imagined Innuendo: Bertie Wooster mistakenly creates the impression that he is proposing to/hitting on/in love with various women on a regular basis (when usually he is, in fact, trying to set her up with a friend). Most of the time they aren't particularly interested in Bertie, but end up accepting his "proposal" anyway, for one reason or another - often to provoke the friend's jealousy.
Impossibly Delicious Food: People are constantly resorting to bribery, blackmail and outright theft in order to acquire or retain Anatole's services.
Intoxication Ensues: In Right Ho, Jeeves, Gussie Fink-Nottle (a teetotaler and all-around spineless goof) gets roped into giving a speech for the award ceremonies at a local grammar school. To 'stiffen his fibers', he drinks a great deal of whiskey, and then a jug-full of orange juice which both Bertie and Jeeves have independently spiked with alcohol. Cue one of the funniest scenes ever put to the page.
Its Pronounced Tro PAY: Bertie's last name is pronounced like "Wuh-ster" rather than "Woo-Ster." For that matter, P.G. Wodehouse's name is promounced "Wood-House" rather than "Wode-House."
Also the case with minor character Cyril "Barmy" Fotheringay-Phipps, whose surname is pronounced 'funghy-phipps'.
Last Name Basis: Bertie only very belatedly realizes that Jeeves even has a first name.
Last Girl Wins: If a Wodehouse character has been pursuing the same girl across multiple books, it's almost a given he'll run off with a brand-new female character in the last installment. Augustus Fink-Nottle is a prime example.
I was just wondering whether it would be any use my putting in a soothing word, and feeling on the whole perhaps not, when there came to my ears a low whistle[...] and I observed something indistinct but apparently feminine bobbing about behind a distant tree.
Love Freak: Madeline Bassett, who — among other things — considers stars to be God's daisy chain. At one point, convinced he's been pining for a glance at her, she compares a thoroughly befuddled Bertie to a cavalier who traveled across seas to kiss his beloved's hand and then expired.
MacGuffin: The most famous is the seventeenth-century English (not Modern Dutch!) silver cow-creamer, the attempted theft of which starts off an entire multi-book uproar in Bertie's love life. The French chef Anatole often serves as a Living MacGuffin.
Mistaken Declaration of Love: An amusing variant pops up in Bertie's love life. Having somehow convinced Madeline Bassett he's desperately pining away for her while actually pleading for Gussie Fink-Nottle, Bertie spends the next several books desperate to keep Madeline and Gussie together lest Madeline decide to make Bertie a "happy" man instead.
Mistaken for Cheating: In The Code of the Woosters, Gussie Fink-Nottle tries to remove a fly from Stiffy Byng's eye at (of course) exactly the wrong moment.
Nazi Nobleman: Roderick Spode, although he only inherits the title (as Lord Sidcup) after he's already been in the Dictator business for awhile.
The Nicknamer: Bertie, who uses shorthand for everything. The entire Drones Club is this, to an extent, since everyone there goes by their nickname; Bertie's is one of the few to be derived from his actual first name.
Once per Episode: Especially in the early stories, Jeeves zeroes in on a particularly tasteless item Bertie has dared to acquire without his advice — be it a cummerbund, checkered suit, various hats, purple socks, or a hideous mustache — and conspires to destroy it utterly. Meanwhile Bertie is equally resolved to put Jeeves in his place by brazenly wearing same. Most stories will end with Bertie admitting defeat as a reward for Jeeves' latest bit of brilliance, only to be told that the offending item has already been destroyed or given away.
Operation Jealousy: Bertie attempts this on more than one occasion, usually with disastrous results. Also a common-enough reason for why women - particularly Angela - announce their plans for marrying Bertie, Gussie, or some other third party.
Opposites Attract: To Bertie's constant annoyance, high-powered and brainy women seem to find him, or at least the prospect of whipping him into intellectual shape, romantically irresistible.
Jeeves: Possibly it may be Nature's provision for maintaining the balance of the species, sir.
Place Worse Than Death: Totleigh Towers. Which is really too bad, because it's utterly beautiful; the TV series uses the same house for exterior shots that would later play the title role on Downton Abbey.
The Plan: Jeeves' schemes to save Bertie frequently shade into this trope; he rarely comes out of them badly.
Ransacked Room: In The Code of the Woosters, Stiffy Byng has hidden a notebook (long story) in order to blackmail Bertie into going along with her schemes. Bertie insists to Jeeves that they should search her room before capitulating, because Bertie has read a detective novel which claims that the top of the wardrobe is "every woman's favourite hiding-place". Unfortunately in this case it isn't, and indeed they don't get much further in the ransacking before Stiffy's bad-tempered terrier discovers them.
Sacred Hospitality: In "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy", Tuppy explains he is motivated by this — really — when he wants to give an Irish water spaniel to the daughter of the house.
Serial Romeo: Bingo Little. He eventually settles down after getting married, although even then he constantly needs help.
Serious Business: Jeeves absolutely hates Bertie's sense of style and fashion. Bertie is constantly buying colorful bits of clothing or art, which causes the disgusted Jeeves to treat him coolly until Bertie finally relents and allows him to destroy it as a reward for services rendered.
Small Town Rivalry: In his short story "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" the towns Upper Bleaching and Hockley-cum-Meston have a heated rivalry which is expressed in the form of an annual rugby game known for its violence and injuries.
Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The Drones is one of the archetypical examples. Sir Watkyn is also a member of a much older one.
Sophisticated as Hell: Bertie's narration style fits this, being an interesting combination of witty prose and attempts to quote from the classics, with what is essentially Buffy Speak.
Supreme Chef: Anatole, legendary cook to Bertie's Aunt Dahlia. All Dahlia has to do to bend Bertie to her will — up to and including stealing the aforementioned cow-creamer for her husband — is threaten him with banishment from her table.
Take That: Wodehouse didn't like the film adaptation starring David Niven, which flipped Bertie around into a lady's man. In one story, Bertie grows a mustache and tries to use David Niven as justification. Jeeves tells him in no uncertain terms that Bertie is not David Niven.
Talks Like a Simile: A staple, although Bertie can be counted on to forget at least half of the example on his way to the point.
And presently the eyes closed, the muscles relaxed, the breathing became soft and regular, and sleep which does something which has slipped my mind to the something sleeve of care poured over me in a healing wave.
Title Drop: Thank You, Jeeves, Right Ho, Jeeves, The Code Of The Woosters, Joy In The Morning.
Unable To Support A Wife: In one story, Jeeves sets about trying to touch an uncle's heart, so that he will give his nephew enough money for this.
Unnecessary Roughness: In "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy", Tuppy gets involved in the yearly rugby grudge-match between two rival villages; the event quickly proves to be an excuse for the participants to beat on each other.
One rather amusing example is Sir Roderick Glossop's identification as a "nerve specialist," which it's noted is just an elevated term for a "loony doctor." Most of Bertie Wooster's conversation can be viewed as an extended roller-coaster ride through this trope.
In the introduction to The Code of the Woosters, Alexander Cockburn mercilessly mocks "naso-labial curvature" as used by one analyst of the books. It describes a smile.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In an early chapter of Jeeves In The Morning, a house burns down. This is barely mentioned throughout the rest of the novel, not even by the owner.
Lord Worplesdon(to Bertie): "I should have known that the first thing you would do, before so much as unpacking, would be to burn the place to the ground!"
Upper-Class Twit: Yes — oh, yes. Many of Bertie's friends make him look like Jeeves by comparison.
Verbal Tic: Bertie's habit of reducing his words to initials. Hence comments like "took the w. right out of my s." See Sophisticated as Hell above for another example.
Bassett: "[My father] never parted from the clock. It accompanied him in perfect safety from Rome to Vienna, from Vienna to Paris, from Paris to Washington, from Washington to Lisbon. One would have said it was indestructible. But it had still to pass the supreme test of encountering Mr. Wooster, and that was too much for it."
Zany Scheme: Jeeves, albeit in his case the zany is motivated mostly by the implausibility of the situations Bertie & Co. have gotten into in the first place. Aunt Dahlia loves hatching them as well, invariably dragging in a reluctant Bertie in the process.