Jeeves and Wooster (novel)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves are fictional characters, created by British author PG 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 Snarker uber-valet (not butler[1]), 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 only 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.

Tropes used in Jeeves and Wooster (novel) include:
  • Accidental Art: In one of the stories, a pal of Bertie's is having trouble. He want's 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, a boy is found to be a remarkable runner after he insults someone and has to run from a beating.
  • Accidental Marriage: The Jeeves books are made of Accidental Engagements. Add to that the fact that it takes Bertie a long time to finally realize he's happier as a bachelor..
  • Altum Videtur: Bertie sometimes quotes Latin tags, usually of the schoolboy variety, quite unnecessarily. Jeeves's are usually more apposite.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie mentions a girl who criticized his "manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus".
  • Batman Gambit: Many of Jeeves's plans are actually this. He often relies entirely on his victim's reactions -- but he's never wrong.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Roderick Glossop is equipped with a pair of these.
  • Brawn Hilda:
    • Cora Bellinger in "Jeeves and the Song of Songs"
    • 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 out side 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Madeleine Basset.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Betie is often the recipient of threats of this kind. One such example can be seen here
  • 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.

  • Embarrassing First Name:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 font from time to time, is there not?

  • Evil Matriarch: The horrendous aunts.
  • Extreme Doormat: Bertie lets himself be talked into just about anything, and usually on the flimsiest of pretexts. "But, Bertie, we were at school together!"
  • Fatal Attractor: Bertie's pal Bingo Little is always falling in love with girls of low social station.
  • Fiery Redhead: Bobbie Wickham.
  • Forgetful Jones: "Biffy" Biffen, who has found the girl of his dreams, but can't remember her last name!
  • 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) may well claim to be the patron saint of this trope, for well over sixty years he devised every variation imaginable, from the lovable Aunt Dahlia to Aunt Agatha, who "chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."
  • Great White Hunter: Captain C.G. Biggar.
  • 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 in one story, 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: An attitude that gets Bertie into constant trouble.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The Rev. Harold 'Stinker' Pinker and his fiancee, Stephanie 'Stiffy' Byng.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Jeeves is this trope personified.
  • Idle Rich: Bertie, and many of his acquaintences.
  • I Have This Friend: 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.
  • 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.
    • While this is the attitude Roderick Spode genuinely has towards Madeline; they eventually do hook up, 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.
  • Intoxication Ensues: In Right Ho, Jeeves, Gussie Fink-Nottle (a teetotaler and all-around spinelesss 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 spiked with alcohol. Cue hilarity.
  • The Jeeves: Trope Namer.
  • 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 the cook in the last installment. Augustus Fink-Nottle is a prime example.
  • Lemony Narrator: Bertie pretty much embodies this concept. Wodehouse's talkative, burbling narration style may well have influenced other British writers, particularly those who went on record as impressed by his work.
  • 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.
  • Nice Guy: Bertie Wooster.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In-canon, during The Code of the Woosters. Specifically, "Eulalie." It's revealed at the end of the book.
    • Subverted when Bertie takes every opportunity he can to tell you what happened that night with Tuppy Glossop and the swimming baths.
  • Not Good with People: Gussie Fink-Nottle finds newts easy, people difficult. Especially women.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Bertie attempts this on more than one occasion, usually with disastrous results.
  • 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.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: A regularly-appearing plot development.
  • 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.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Makes adapting Wodehouse's work to TV or film no easy task.
  • Rugby Is Slaughter: Tuppy Glossop finds this out to his cost in "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" in Very Good, Jeeves.
  • Serial Romeo: Bingo Little.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: Jeeves, from a rather awed Bertie's point of view. He frequently describes his valet as "shimmering" from place-to-place.
  • Stealth Insult: Jeeves again.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Title Drop: Thank You, Jeeves, Right Ho, Jeeves, The Code Of The Woosters, Joy In The Morning.
  • 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.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • 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.
  • Upper Class Twit: Yes -- oh, yes. Many of Bertie's friends make him look like Jeeves by comparison.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Bertie's Embarrassing Middle Name is the name of a horse his father won money on.
  • World of Snark: A more idealistic example than most, but still. Even Bertie gets to snark.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Bertie has to remind himself that a proper gentleman never hits a lady, when he deals with girls like Bobbie Wickham.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: What Jeeves sometimes has to resort to.
  • 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.
  1. though if the call comes, 'he can buttle with the best of them'