Book Review: Enter Jeeves

Enter Jeeves:  15 Early Stories, by P.G. Wodehouse

In general, it can be said that I am a fan of the writing of P.G. Wodehouse and his various entertaining series [1].  Admittedly, this book is not the best or most polish Wodehouse book I have read, but it is still an interesting book and some of the stories included are quite excellent.  In these early stories one sees Wodehouse working on his writing, determining what sort of plots are best suited to his style, and moving from the sort of absurd romantic situations that are best suited to the plays of Oscar Wilde to something that more closely resembles his mature (if we may call it that) fiction.  This is a rare example of a book that it may be more enjoyable to read from end to beginning rather than beginning to end because the most enjoyable stories are the eight Jeeves stories that begin the collection rather than the complete set of seven Reggie Pepper stories that close the collection.  Either way one tries to read it, these are mildly entertaining short stories that do not take too long to read and that hint at the comic greatness Wodehouse was to achieve in his later works, and that makes these stories worth appreciating.

The fifteen stories included in this volume run to a bit more than 200 pages of fairly light reading, although the Jeeves stories that open the volume seem to sparkle more than the Reggie Pepper stories that close the volume, or at least they did to me.  The eight early Jeeves stories included in this volume include:  Extracting Young Gussie, Leave It To Jeeves, The Aunt And The Sluggard, Jeeves Takes Charge, Jeeves And The Unbidden Guest, Jeeves And The Hard-Boiled Egg, Jeeves And The Chump Cyril, and Jeeves In The Springtime.  The Reggie Pepper stories are Absent Treatment, Lines And Business, Disentangling Old Duggie, Brother Alfred, Rallying Round Clarence, Concealed Art, and Test Case.  None of the stories are particularly long, and many of them involve similar situations where young and somewhat indolent heirs of aristocratic British families try to avoid the threats of their aunts and uncles through the help of wise servants and through their own intuition.  Wodehouse shows himself to be a tropemaster of considerable facility, dealing with romantic entanglements and turning what could have been viewed as domestic tragedies into farcical tales of considerable appeal.

There are at least a few patterns that one can see from these early works that show how Wodehouse found his own voice.  We can see that over time in the short stories he wrote he focused less attention on romantic fiction and sought in later stories to have a more chummy atmosphere of friends and employer-employee relations.  He engages in some worldbuilding when he ties together the Jeeves stories with some concerns about Blandings Castle and the memories of a relative of one of Bertie Wooster’s ex-fiances.  Many of the Bertie Wooster stories show him in New York City, in exile from his homeland not dissimilar to that of the author during long stretches of his life where he wrote about English people while living in the United States.  Jeeves shows up as the true worthy hero of his stories, making fashion decisions for his master while also showing considerable insight into the personalities of the people he is around, some of whom underestimate him while others appreciate his value.  There are enough similarities between the stories to encourage readers to connect the stories together and wonder what they had to say about the experiences and mindset of the author, such as demanding women, men who lack a strong work ethic or ambition, young people being dependent on the largess of older and wealthier relatives, people ending up in jail or in disgrace for wild and riotous living, and what makes a house, or a flat/apartment, truly a home.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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