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Literature / Aunts Aren't Gentlemen

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Aunts Aren't Gentlemen is a 1974 novel by P. G. Wodehouse.

It is a Jeeves and Wooster story. Bertie Wooster goes to a doctor who says Bertie is leading an unhealthy lifestyle—the lifestyle of a rich London gentleman, that is, with the drinking and smoking and indolence. His doctor recommends Bertie retire to the countryside. He does so, and retires to the village of Maiden Eggesford and the estate of his Aunt Dahlia's friend Col. James Briscoe, where he's given a cottage.

Meanwhile, Bertie runs across his old school acquaintance Orlo Porter. Orlo is a trust-fund heir who also happens to be a young Communist. He is in love with Vanessa Cook, an old casual girlfriend of Bertie's. Orlo and Vanessa want to get married but they can't, because Vanessa's father is also the guardian of Orlo's trust fund, and won't release it because of Orlo's left-wing politics.


It so happens that Mr. Cook, Vanessa's father, is neighbor to and rival of Bertie's host Col. Briscoe. They're both owners of racehorses which are set to go against each other in the local race. Aunt Dahlia, who has bet a lot of money on Briscoe's horse, orders Bertie to unsettle Mr. Cook's horse, Potato Chip, by stealing Potato Chip's best friend—a cat.

The last Jeeves and Wooster novel, and P.G. Wodehouse's last completed novel, published four months before his 1975 death at the age of 93.note  (Wodehouse left a Blandings Castle novel, Sunset at Blandings, unfinished.)



  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Orlo. He plays at being a communist, but what he really wants is his inheritance. He makes it perfectly clear to Bertie that he wants champagne, Rolls-Royces, and all the privileges of the British upper-class.
  • The Cat Came Back: A major difficulty in the novel is the persistence of the cat that is a friend and loyal companion of Potato Chip the horse. Bertie has the cat stolen on Aunt Dahlia's orders, only to find himself obligated to return the cat to the horse's stable—only the cat keeps coming back to Bertie's cottage, causing Bertie a lot of problems.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lacking access to his trust fund, Orlo is forced to work as an insurance salesman, and he strong-arms Bertie into getting a life insurance policy. This proves relevant when Orlo is looking to rip out Bertie's insides, and Jeeves helpfully reminds him that his employers would not be happy if Orlo caused them to have to pay out on that policy.
  • The Comically Serious: Jeeves, as always. Bertie is particularly annoyed by this when Jeeves enters the cottage to find Bertie bound and gagged, and does not even flinch.
    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.
  • Continuity Nod
    • The doctor, E. Jimpson Murgatroyd, also popped up in Blandings Castle novel Full Moon. And early in the story Bertie makes reference to attending a wedding party for Veronica Wedge, daughter of Col. Wedge of Blandings Castle.
    • Major Plank, an antagonist from Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves who is under the impression that Bertie is a thief, appears again. To Bertie's relief, the Major has forgotten who he is.
    • Major Plank's vicar is the Rev. Harold Pinker, Bertie's old school chum "Stinker", who appears in some of the short stories as well as the novels Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves and The Code of the Woosters.
    • When attempting to evade the punches of Mr. Cook, Bertie remembers how Gussie Fink-Nottle pulled a painting down onto the head of Roderick Spode in The Code of the Woosters. Bertie does the same.
  • Fiery Redhead: A rare example of this trope being applied to a man. As Orlo is freaking out about Vanessa, Bertie says "my experience of the red-headed is that you can always expect high blood pressure from them in times of stress."
  • Given Name Reveal: Jeeves' first name is casually revealed to be Reginald, when a more informal butler colleague is heard calling him "Reggie".
  • Lemony Narrator: Bertie Wooster makes his last loopily eloquent journey.
    "I never know when I'm teling a tale of peril and suspense whether to charge straight ahead or whether to pause from time to time and bung in what is called atmosphere. Some prefer the first way, others the second. For the benefit of the latter I will state that it was a nice evening with gentle breezes blowing and stars peeping out and the scent of growing things and all that, and then I can get down to the res."
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Bertie, who never swears, calls Mr. Cook a "son of a what-not".
  • Roguish Poacher: Herbert "Billy" Graham is the local poacher, whom all the gamekeepers of local landowners like Cook and Briscoe can never catch. Bertie unsuccessfully enlists Graham to return the cat to Potato Chip's stable.
  • Separated by a Common Language: When Cook comes barreling at Bertie screaming "Hi!", Bertie reflects about how the greeting "Hi!" is cheerful and friendly in America but in England connotes extreme anger and suspicion. (Bertie took a wrong turn and wandered onto Cook's estate by mistake).
  • Tempting Fate: After the unpleasantness of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, namely Bertie's unfortunate encounter with Major Plank who thought Bertie was trying to steal five quid, Bertie is startled to run into Major Plank again at the doctor's office. The Major has forgotten who Bertie is, however, and Bertie says "It is a great relief to think that I shall never see him again." Naturally, Major Plank is a guest at Mr. Cook's estate when Bertie arrives in the village.
  • Title Drop: Sort of. Bertie has finally gone to New York with Jeeves and is remarking on how it's much more peaceful and restful than the little village where he got in so much trouble. He decides the reason why New York is so quiet and calm is that it doesn't have any aunts. Then come the very last lines of the novel (and of the whole Jeeves and Wooster canon):
    "Do you know what the trouble is with aunts as a class?"
    "No, sir."
    "They are not gentlemen," I said gravely.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: To Orlo's frustration, he could support a wife if he could only get at his trust fund, but Mr. Cook has it and doesn't have to give it up until Orlo turns 30, three years down the road.

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