Posted by: Lizzie Ross | July 4, 2010

The Perfect Butler

Carry On, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse (1925), Penguin, 235 pp.

This is the book in which Wodehouse first introduced us to the fatuous Bertie Wooster and his irreplaceable butler, Jeeves. In the first story, “Jeeves Takes Charge,” we find Bertie in his usual muddle:

I gave up trying to run my own affairs within a week of [Jeeves’] coming to me. That was about half a dozen years ago, directly after the rather rummy business of Florence Craye, my Uncle Willoughby’s book, and Edwin, the Boy Scout.

Florence Craye is Bertie’s fiancée; his uncle’s book, if published, will expose the most scandalous secrets about several top families (including Florence’s). She gives Bertie the job of destroying the manuscript. Thwarting Bertie’s every move is the Boy Scout trying to accomplish his good deeds.

Only Jeeves can get Bertie out of this mess (I won’t tell you how he does it), but the result is that Bertie gives him permanent employment, and we get to witness Jeeves, in other stories, repeatedly saving Bertie or one of his friends from financial or matrimonial disaster. A few aunts terrify Bertie, he drops in and out of engagements like a yo-yo, and he must repeatedly have his sartorial tastes corrected by his sensitive gentleman’s gentleman.

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were beautifully cast as Bertie and Jeeves in the BBC series; so beautifully, that I don’t mind hearing their voices or envisioning their faces as I read Wodehouse’s stories.

But don’t just watch the series; you must read the books as well. Wodehouse has six on the Guardian’s list of 1000 Greatest Books, and for good reason.

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