Thursday, January 5, 2017

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
© 1963 P.G. Wodehouse
227 pages

As had so often happened before, I felt that my only course was to place myself in the hands of a higher power.
"Sir?" [Jeeves] said, manifesting himself.

Bertie Wooster has two great weaknesses: needy friends and forceful females.  Now, alas, they're conspiring to take him to a  house whose master is quite certain Wooster is a kleptomanic loony who ought to be put away. Still, for the sake of two friends whose engagement is endangered  by something mysterious, Bertie must journey and face great personal peril, from village constables to Scottish terriers, to play the part of peacemaker. Naturally, he ends up in jail.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves is a short novel in PG Wodehouse's hysterical Wooster & Jeeves tales. They've come up before, but in summary: the main character, Bertie Wooster, is a society wastrel who lives on a family allowance and spends most of his time chumming in gentlemen's clubs and avoiding the schemes of his family to get him either gainfully employed or married   He does attempt to make himself useful in getting his friends out of scrapes, usually by attempting to manipulate events. In this he typically ,makes things worse, but fortunately he has his brilliant valet, Jeeves.   There is no social predicament too complicated for Jeeves to finesse, though sometimes at Bertie's personal expense.

In Stiff Upper Lip, Bertie labors to save his friends' engagement primarily so that the newly-freed bride to be won't renew her interest in him, but when he arrives at Totleigh Towers one problem quickly multiplies into a blizzard of shenanigans that blinds even Jeeves for a bit.  As always,  Bertie-Jeeves books are a brilliant joy  to read just for the language.   I wonder if these books weren't written under the influence of ardent spirits, because they're too giddy to be the work of  a sober mind. Bertie can't tell a story without inventing a noun ("Aunt Agatha called up with a what-the-hell"),  a gerund ("I what-ho'd her"),  or verbs ("legged it over to the Drones').      

Wodehouse is positively mirthful, a welcome start to the year -- but interested parties should start with something like Carry on, Jeeves, instead. This is a sequel to another story and I would have been lost utterly had I not read Wodehouse previously and watched the DVD specials with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry repeatedly.


  1. Thanks for the posting and Rx. I will see if my library has a copy of _Carry On, Jeeves_. However, I am wary of humorous writing. Perhaps I am now too much of a curmudgeon!

  2. imo some of the best books ever written; particularly for depressed persons... absorbing the full measure of humor may require some familiarity with English upper class culture early last century, but comprehending Wodehousian parlance will increase with experience... "plum" as he was called lived into his nineties and wrote over a hundred books and plays; he was not a teetotaller, but not much of an imbiber, either... the funniest works i've ever read...

    1. I thought Wodehouse's whimsical style would start the year off right -- my other choices were gloomy histories and politics. Glad to know another Wodehouse fan!


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