Sunday, April 17, 2022

1954 Club: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit by P. G. Wodehouse



It is both amusing and amazing to me that P. G. Wodehouse was able to recycle his own plots and characters over the course of his seventy year writing career. By my count, I've now read 25 of his works, as novels and short story collections. Wodehouse tropes abound in Jeeves and The Feudal Spirit. I'm always looking for an excuse to read more Wodehouse, and the timing couldn't have been better as I could count it for Simon and Kaggsy's 1954 Club!  It runs this whole week from April 18 to 24. 

Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves return for their eleventh adventure and with them some beloved returning characters and situations. Somehow Bertie just never learns to avoid young upper-class women who want to marry him and mold him into respectability, their jealous ex-fiancés who want to sock him, and devious aunts who want him to commit petty crimes. Naturally the faithful Jeeves with his superior brain power is there to save the day (and Bertie's skin).

In this installment, Bertie has been summoned to help Aunt Dahlia out of yet another scrape -- she's desperately trying to unload her women's magazine, Milady's Boudoir, to a wealthy publisher, and has enlisted Bertie to help wine and dine him, in London and at Brinkley Court, her country estate. She has also tasked Bertie with picking up a pearl necklace for her in London from a jewelry store. Little does Bertie know that Aunt Dahlia has made a cheap copy of some extremely valuable pearls, which she has subsequently pawned to infuse cash into her insolvent periodical. She is in a panic because her husband Tom is planning on showing off the pearls to another weekend guest, Lord Sidcup, a supposed expert of antiques and jewelry.

Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Nicholas Palliser as Stilton Cheesewright from the 1993 TV adaptation, the episode entitled "The Delayed Arrival." Jeeves does not approve of Bertie's mustache.

Bertie is also in the soup, so to speak, because the Brinkley Court guest list includes Florence Craye, a strong-willed young writer who has managed to entangle the unwitting Bertie into an unwanted engagement. She's on the rebound after jilting her overbearing fiancĂ©, D'Arcy "Stilton" Cheesewright, who has appeared to have it out with Florence and wring Bertie's neck. It also includes the aforementioned publisher, Trotter; his social-climbing wife; and his stepson, Percy Gorringe, a playwright who is adapting Florence's novel for the stage, and is madly in love with her. 

You always know what you are getting with Wodehouse, and therein lies the charm. I don't really want to time-travel to aristocratic England between the wars, but it would be amusing to be a fly on the wall and observe the hapless Bertie in all his slapstick charm. It honestly doesn't bother me that Wodehouse recycles plots and character types -- they're so beautifully drawn and so funny, just the thing if you need a light read, and who couldn't use some diversion right now? 



And now time for a little bonus Wodehouse! If you like musical theater, I strongly recommend watching the upcoming TV broadcast of Anything Goes, airing in the US this May on PBS Great Performances. It had a short run on the big screen in US theaters in March and I was lucky enough to go see it. It's a professionally shot recording of the 2021 West End production starring Sutton Foster (currently starring on Broadway in The Music Man). Wodehouse co-wrote the original book, lyrics by Cole Porter. The plot is classic Wodehouse, about wacky characters on an ocean liner in the 1930s. There are mobsters, star-crossed lovers, a ridiculous English lord, and an American cabaret singer, giving ample opportunity for hijinks and great musical numbers. It was an absolute joy to watch and I can't wait to watch it again. I suspect I'll save it on the DVR so I can watch the fabulous tap dancing numbers again and again. 

Here's the preview from Youtube: 


So -- my first read for the 1954 Club! I have two or three more I'd like to read for this event, hopefully I'll get through them all. What are you reading for the 1954 Club?

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like pure joy! I read a lot of Wodehouse back in the day but it's ages since I revisited - you tempt me!

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    1. Wodehouse has really cheered me up the last couple of years. It's pure escapist humor.

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  2. Hurrah for Wodehouse! I've been listening to some on audio recently. I can never remember which Jeeves I've read because the titles don't really give away the plot, but this one sounds an absolute gem.

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    1. They all sort of run together, don't they? But ultimately it doesn't much matter, all of his books are so much fun.

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  3. Anything Goes looks great. We need something to lift our spirits and sometimes a good tap dance number is just the ticket.

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    1. I know, right? I love tap numbers in musicals and am seriously thinking about taking up tap, it looks so fun!

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    2. I know, right? I love tap numbers in musicals and am seriously thinking about taking up tap, it looks so fun!

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    3. I know, right? I love tap numbers in musicals and am seriously thinking about taking up tap, it looks so fun!

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  4. It's always fun going back to Wodhouse land; while my own absolute favourites are the Blandings books, I enjoy Jeeves and Wooster too. And like you say, it really doesn't matter that he recycles plots since the writing is so very good, and the sense of comfort the books give one (and the laughs), makes up for it each time.

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    1. I still have some Blandings books unread, looking forward to them!

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