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Literature / The Mating Season

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The Mating Season is a 1949 novel by P. G. Wodehouse.

It is a Jeeves and Wooster story. The plot kicks off with Bertie, as usual, being browbeaten into doing something inconvenient by one of his aunts. Aunt Agatha dispatches Bertie off to Deverill Hall in Hampshire, home of the Haddock family, with an order to perform in the village concert. His old friend Gussie Fink-Nottle (prominently featured in Right Ho, Jeeves) is to go with him. Gussie is on the outs with his fiancee, Madeline Bassett. This makes Bertie nervous because the last time Gussie and Madeline split up, Madeline latched on to Bertie, and above all Bertie does not want to get married.

Bertie's trip to Deverill Hall attracts the interest of another of his chums, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright. Catsmeat is in love with Gertrude Winkworth, cousin to the owner of Deverill Hall, Esmond Haddock. Catsmeat can't go to Deverill Hall because Gertrude's family—her mother and four aunts, the Deverill sisters—strongly disapproves of him. However, he is concerned that Esmond, a notorous womanizer, may try and seduce his cousin Gertrude (yes, his first cousin). He charges Bertie with keeping an eye out on Gertrude and making sure that Esmond doesn't put the moves on her. It so happens that Catsmeat's sister, Corky, is herself in love with Esmond, but refuses to marry him because the family also disapproves of her—Catsmeat and Corky are both actors.


Meanwhile, Gussie the goofball gets himself sentenced to 14 days in jail for jumping into the fountain in Trafalgar Square. Bertie is terrified at the prospect that Madeline may hear about Gussie not showing up at Deverill Hall, and break up with Gussie for good—and thus latch back on to Bertie. So lacking any better options, Bertie resolves to impersonate Gussie Fink-Nottle at Deverill Hall.

Not to be confused with the 1951 Screwball Comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Gene Tierney.



  • Brawn Hilda: Madeline Bassett's friend Hilda Gudgeon, repeatedly described by Bertie as "the solid girl", who plays cricket and tennis and slaps Bertie on the back.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One tertiary plot thread involves Jeeves temporarily leaving Bertie to steer Bertie's delinquent cousin Thomas away from Deverill Hall, and to deprive Thomas of a cosh that he has illicitly obtained. At a pivotal moment, Jeeves uses the cosh to knock out Constable Dobbs and save Gussie from arrest.
  • Continuity Nod: For the reader Bertie gives a quick rundown of the events of Right Ho, Jeeves, namely how Bertie tries to be a messenger to Madeline regarding Gussie Fink-Nottle's affections, but got himself engaged to her instead.
  • Extreme Doormat: Most of the Jeeves and Wooster novels turn on Bertie's inability to say "no" whenever he's asked a favor, no matter how inconvenient. Lampshaded here when Bertie grudgingly agrees to impersonate Gussie Fink-Nottle.
    Bertie: 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." I'm not complaining, I'm just mentioning it.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Catsmeat drinks one of Jeeves' hangover cure specials, which jolt the drinker "like a man struck by lightning" but cure the hangover afterwards.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Near the end Corky reveals that Catsmeat is not a valet, but is actually her brother, and is there because he loves Esmond's cousin Gertrude. Corky the cinema actress says it's "a darned good third-reel situation, if you ask me."
  • Maiden Aunt: Four of Esmond's five aunts never married and are now crotchety old ladies. Bertie is terrified of encountering that many aunts under any circumstances.
  • Nouveau Riche: It's explained that the Deverill family, consisting of Gertrude's mother and three aunts, married into the Haddock family because the Haddocks were rich (they make headache medicine) and the Deverills were Land Poor. But the Deverill sisters maintain their snooty upper-class attitudes.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: At the very end, Esmond Haddock's defiance of his five aunts inspires Bertie to confront his Aunt Agatha. Sadly, the book ends with his decision to do so.
  • Oireland: Ruthlessly dissected by Gussie when when he reads the "Pat and Mike" crosstalk routine that Catsmeat wrote for him and Bertie.
    Gussie: And in describing the incident he prefaces his remarks at several points with the expressions "Begorrah" and "faith and begob." Irishmen don't talk like that. Have you ever read Synge's Riders to the Sea? Well get hold of it and study it, and if you can show me a single character in it who says "Faith and begob," I'll give you a shilling. Irishmen are poets....They say things like "An evening like this, it makes me wish I was back in County Clare, watchin' the tall grass."
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Gertrude's mother refuses to let her marry Catsmeat, an actor.
  • Precision F-Strike: Corky says of the Deverill sisters, who look down on her for being an actress, that "They're all bitches." This is a very rare instance of a bad word in the Jeeves and Wooster canon.
    Bertie: You use strong words, child.
  • Straw Atheist: Police Constable Dobbs. He irritates Corky by pestering her and Catsmeat's uncle Sidney, the vicar, with questions like where Cain got his wife.
  • Take That!: P.G. Wodehouse had been in an incredibly nasty spat with old friend A. A. Milne after Wodehouse's ill-advised appearances on German radio in 1941 (he'd been arrested in France when the Germans came in 1940) led Milne to say that Wodehouse should be tried for treason. Wodehouse resented this immensely. So that's why in this novel Bertie says that one of the reasons he couldn't abide being married to Madeline Bassett is that "Her favorite reading is Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh." Later Bertie is utterly horrified when he's told he'll have to recite Christopher Robin poems in the talent show. Gussie for his part is thrilled that he doesn't have to.
    Gussie: There's one about the little blighter going hoppity-hoppity-hop which...Well, as I say, I feel extremely relieved.
  • Title Drop: When Bertie is in a fury about Gussie's crush on Corky Pirbright, her brother Catsmeat says "It isn't his fault, really. This is springtime, the mating season, when...a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."
  • The Wicked Stage: The Deverill sisters disapprove of Catsmeat and Corky as potential matches for Gertrude and Esmond, because they're actors from a family of actors.

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