Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

This is my second Jeeves and Bertie novel and I am already an incorrigible Jeeves enthusiast... all ready to share my thoughts, yet again. I'm also quite fond of Bertie Wooster. What ho! 

Thank You, Jeeves is a Jeeves novel by P.G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on March 16, 1934 by Herbert Jenkins, London, and in the United States on April 23, 1934 by Little, Brown and Company, New York. The story had previously been serialized, in the Strand Magazine in the UK from August 1933 to February 1934, and in the U.S. in Cosmopolitan Magazine from January to June 1934; it would later appear in the American Family Herald & Evening Star, between March 24 and August 11, 1937.

In Thank You, Jeeves we encounter a host of characters. Not that they are total strangers to us; I, for one, have already made my acquaintance with them in Carry on, Jeeves. But in this novel we get a bit more peek into them, their lives, eccentricities and all.

...And we get to say hello to the young Bertram Wooster's banjolele. This current flame of his (musical instrumentally speaking) lands him in some serious trouble of the cantankerous kind - with assorted neighbours, etc. But the proverbial sky falls when the usually unflappable Jeeves too decides to turn flappable and bids adieu - at short notice.

All 'coz Bertie decides to gallantly stand by his banjolele. Very Bertie-like, I tell you.

Jeeves finds work with Bertie's old friend, Lord "Chuffy" Chuffnell. Rather, Chuffy engages him without wasting a precious moment (i.e. as soon as he learns that Jeeves intended to leave Bertie). Clearly: Jeeves' reputation precedes him and is widespread.

Bertie too (very thoughtfully and innocently) travels to one of Chuffy's cottages in Dorset - in order to continue practicing his banjolele-playing. Why to one of Chuffy's cottages in Dorset of all places? So as to avoid upsetting his city neighbours.

Btw, the banjolele is universally renowned as the banjo. But since I had not heard of the former - the rather exotic-sounding name before, I take it that one never ceases to learn. Even from a musical instrument whose rather 'melodious' strains (as coaxed out by the one and only Bertie) invariably induce insomnia in all two-and-four-legged creatures within the vicinity. And perhaps even in the potted variety. God bless the banjolele, or rather, the hand that plays it.

However, young Bertie is not without his virtues. He seems to be a first-rate magnet and a repellent - all rolled into one; as far as the female of the species is concerned. The sheer number of distaffers that have flitted in and out of his life is enough to teach the first and second graders the fine art of counting (addition, subtraction, multiplication, all included).

But this book almost entirely concentrates on Pauline Stoker - Bertie's sometime fiancée, the engagement having lasted less than 48 hours. All thanks to some rather convincing glib-talk by the permanently irascible "nerve specialist" Sir Roderick Glossop - who, in this book, is well and truly under the spell of the Dowager Lady Chuffnell.

As you know, Lady Chuffnell is also Chuffy's Aunt Myrtle, a formidable lady-ship and the owner of a rather pestilential son - Seabury. Guess, love is blind. Or perhaps it has something to do with birds of a feather and all that.

Speaking of love, let's get back to Pauline.

Bertie's sometime fiancée - Pauline - is not the type to mope around. She has admirably moved on, and even transferred her affections to Lord Chuffnell (aka Chuffy), the master of Chuffnell Hall, in Chuffnell Regis, a hamlet containing more Nosey Parkers to the square foot than any other spot in England.

Chuffy, as we know, is a childhood chum of Bertie. And Bertie too has taken up residence in one of Chuffy's cottages at precisely the same time - in order to continue practicing his banjolele-playing. Now, if this doesn't prove that the world is truly a global village, what will?

No, Bertie isn't crestfallen either; in fact he is quite the enthu-cutlet and pledges all possible help for this union to materialize. He actually goes all out to make it happen. Even taking on the possessor of that formidable-sounding name, J. Washburn Stoker - who is also very much the even more formidable, ever vigilant and overprotective father of the lissome Pauline Stoker. Here Stoker Sr. appears as the fairly recent inheritor of some 50 million dollars, thanks to a final act of generosity by one of his relatives. This theory of relativity seems to play a very crucial role in many people's lives. Other people's lives.

Stoker Sr. is the sort of chap who, as the Bible puts it, if you say Go, he cometh, and if you say Come, he goeth; a fellow, in a word, who, if he came to a door with 'Push' on it, would always pull.

As per Bertie.

Quite an eloquent chap, this Bertie, don't you think? None of us could have put it any better, right?

Btw, Chuffy aka Lord Chuffnell is actually Lord Marmaduke Chuffnell.

Yes, you read it right. Its Marmaduke and not Marmalade.

But imagine being saddled with a name like that... for life?! Not quite in the same league as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela or his 27-year long incarceration though. And perhaps even worse than being deported to Kala Paani by the erstwhile East India Company-turned-British Raj. [Kala Paani: the Cellular Jail or the colonial prison situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.]

As for Jeeves, he continues to float in and out of rooms and materializes rather manifests himself whenever he is urgently required. That is: whenever there are dark clouds - real or imaginary - on the horizon.

What he does here? Or what happens to that root-cause of many events - the banjolele? Well, you'll have to read this book to find that out. I won't play the spoiler. And if you have read it already, well then, read it again. :)

I mentioned earlier that Bertie went all out to make the Chuffy-Pauline union happen, didn't I? Actually, Bertie does a lot more than that. He even applies boot polish on his face, saves himself (by finishing first by the shortest of heads) in a race with his new valet (Brinkley) and the latter's carving knife. [New valet, 'coz Jeeves had flappabled himself, thanks to the banjolele, remember?]

Quite a character, this Brinkley. He even threw potatoes at the formidable Stoker Sr. - giving him a very sweetish black eye. Now, how many folks do you know that can throw potatoes like a missile (from a distance that too) and still get the bull's eye? [Pun or not, you decide.]

Bertie also witnesses a lovers' reunion/reconciliation (after a lovers' tiff, of course) - lofty endearments and all that (after one has been duly gathered in the others arms). Umm, what state the good Mr. Wooster was in then? He, horror of horrors, had not even breakfasted!! That is: he witnessed a lovers' reunion - on an empty, rumbling stomach and a boot-polish-blackened-face.

What sacrifice!

Verdict: Thank You, Jeeves is actually one story, a single story that runs through 22 chapters and 263 pages. The chapters are short and given the nature of the book you'll simply breeze through them. It's an any-time, all-weather read. Though there isn't much interplay between Jeeves and Bertie here, unlike the kind we find in Carry on, Jeeves, you'll like Pauline Stoker. She will bring a smile to your lips.

My two pence worth: The book jacket cover is denim-blue in colour. PG Wodehouse appears in fluorescent green. Thank You, Jeeves appears in white. Quite prominent, must say. Three silhouettes, one table and a solitary figure in a crisp white shirt - make up the rest. The silhouettes clearly belong to Chuffy, Pauline and Jeeves - in that order. The large dining table (with a bright-pink cover) comes in between the silhouettes and the crisp white-shirted figure. On the table there is a tray with a coffee pot and a cup on it, which in turn is closely accompanied by a plate that is laden with crisp toasts and an egg - all Bertie's breakfast favourites.

A hand reaches for the toasts from under the table, while the body, to which the hand is attached, is doing its best to remain in hiding. A part of the face, from nose down, is revealed.

...And all of this clearly belongs to Bertram Wooster, although the face is devoid of boot polish. However, the bright-pink cover on the table could not have been Jeeves' choice.

The production quality of the book is pretty decent. The few editing errors could and should have been pruned out though.

However, the novel contains the word "Negro" one too many times. Which means: the celebrated P.G. Wodehouse may not have been entirely devoid of the cancer of "racism". Or was it a word that was simply in circulation in those days, and which was used without much thought?

There are a couple of references to India as well - alongside giant spiders. Hmm.

But there is absolutely nothing about leech and Nobel Peace Prize. I mean: about a certain EU de Colognial. Nothing about the Yeast India Company either.

Not even a whiff. Too bad.

But then, thank you Plum - for Jeeves and for Bertie. And here's wishing you a belated 131st Happy Birthday! Or is it birth anniversary?! What say, Jeeves?

Details of the book: Thank You, Jeeves/ Author: P.G. Wodehouse/ Publisher: Arrow, an imprint of Random House/ Binding: Paperback/ Publishing Date: 03/06/2008/ Genre: Classics/ ISBN-10: 978-0-09-951373-5/ ISBN-13: 9780099513735/ Pages: 263/ Price: $19.95)

Picture: The book jacket cover of Thank You, Jeeves. Courtesy: link.


  1. Much enjoyed reading this! These books were brought to life very effectively by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in a television series some decades ago. They add a visual dimension that is complementary (and, indeed, complimentary) to the world of the novellas. I recommend them, if they are available to you.

  2. Thank you. I am aware of the Stephen Fry-Hugh Laurie television series. Will try to catch as much as I can.