‘Very Good, Jeeves,’ P.G.Wodehouse
I recently saw an online meme listing some of the greatest comebacks and put-downs of all time, (found here, for those who are interested, and some of them really are classics, from Winston Churchill to the glorious Dorothy Parker). Number five features a line from a P.G.Wodehouse book on a woman who:
“…looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.’”
This reminded me that, last summer, I finally got around to reading the author often described by contemporary British writers as one of the funniest of all time. I don’t know how I had gone this long in life without reading one of his compilations of tales of the upper class fool Bertie Wooster and the scrapes from which he is saved by his industrious and ingenious manservant Jeeves. I wasn’t disappointed, and present for you here my favourite quotes and scenes from the vignettes which make up ‘Very Good, Jeeves,’ and a promise to get back to you as soon as I’ve read some more.
“‘How does it look?’
A bit cryptic, but let it go…”
“The letter arrived on the morning of the sixteenth. I was pushing a bit of breakfast into the Wooster face at the moment…”
(What a remarkable turn of comic phrase!)
“‘You!’ said Sir Roderick finally. And in this connection I want to state that it’s all rot to say you can’t hiss a word that hasn’t an ‘s’ in it…”
“I don’t know what the record is for popping out and buying aniseed, but I should think I hold it…I was back at the flat so quick that I nearly met myself coming out…”
“If young Bingo has a fault, it is that, when in the society of a sandwich, he is apt to get a bit rough…”
Finally, I’m not sure a single paragraph of writing has ever been so perfectly illustrative of both an author’s style and a protagonist’s personality as the following one:
“Now, setting a booby-trap for a respectable citizen like a head master (even of an inferior school to your own) is not a matter to be approached lightly and without careful preparation. I don’t suppose I’ve ever selected a lunch with more thought than I did that day. And after a nicely-balanced meal, preceded by a couple of dry Martinis, washed down with half a bot. of a nice light, dry champagne, and followed by a spot of brandy, I could have set a booby-trap for a bishop…”
Frivolity, alcohol, misplaced seriousness, and a proclivity for hi-jinx: a perfect summary of my first ‘Jeeves’ book.