By P.G. Wodehouse
“I was sent by the agency, sir,” he said. “I was given to understand that you required a valet.”
I’d have preferred an undertaker; but I told him to stagger in.
- Author: P.G. Wodehouse
- Publisher: Penguin
- Published: 1980 (1925)
- Pages: 235
- ISBN:: 0 14 00.1174 9
Carry On, Jeeves is a collection of Jeeves and Wooster stories; what’s more, it’s the collection of the first Jeeves and Wooster stories. The first story is the one where Jeeves enters the employment of Bertram Wooster, and the other stories give us the details on the various episodes Bertie keeps referring to in the rest of his works.
It’s in this book that we learn how Anatole came to enter the employment of Aunt Dahlia (Clustering round young Bingo), where we see Bertie being sentenced to a fiver by the beak of Bosher Street (Without the option), where the engagement with Florence Graye falls through (Jeeves takes charge) and finally the gastly entanglement with the Girl’s school (Bertie changes his mind).
The stories are clearly quite early; the extreme fluency that is such a hall-mark of the later Jeeves and Wooster stories is not really there, especially not in the stories that are set in New York; but there’s also a freshness about many situations (like the memoirs that should be stolen; an idea that Wodehouse has reused later, in Summer Lightning).
The one story I do not care for at all is the last one: Bertie Changes his Mind. It’s written from the viewpoint of Jeeves, and that might sound interesting, but it isn’t really. I much prefer to view Jeeves through the eyes of Bertie, who is a far more fluent prattler. A long stretch Jeeves is extremely tiring.
Anyway, if you’ve never read a Jeeves and Wooster story before, you start here, because the events depicted in this volume are referred to time and again in the later works. Those books are readable enough in their own light, and you work out what happened soon enough, but the joy of recognition is particularly pleasant.
The “Spectator” has, on the occasion of the republication of Wodehouse’s complete works (in hardback, but sadly unavailable in the Netherlands) published a very fine article: The music of the language by Philip Hensher. He argues that Wodehouse’s mastery lies in his mastery of the language; and that is true. But there’s more. The fine men and women that people his books are just as sheerly enticing.