The Code of the Woostersby P. G. Wodehouse
Fans devoted to the master of comic fiction P. G. Wodehouse are legion. He represents an antic high point in
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On the 25th anniversary of Wodehouse's death, booksellers and readers will be cheered to find the finest editions available of his classic novels--the first in a series of his best known works--by one of the greatest English comic writers of our time.
Fans devoted to the master of comic fiction P. G. Wodehouse are legion. He represents an antic high point in the world of farce and social satire. Best known for the creation of two fictional worlds based on Blandings Castle and the Wooster-Jeeves gentleman-valet duo, Wodehouse is appreciated the world over for his exceedingly clever and comically savvy send-ups of the idle rich in Edwardian England.
In The Code of the Woosters, it takes all the ingenuity of Jeeves, the "gentleman's gentleman" extraordinaire, to rescue his hapless and hopelessly obtuse young employer, Bertie Wooster, from the pickle of a plot to steal a silver jug from the home of an irascible magistrate.
With each volume edited and reset and printed on Scottish cream-wove, acid-free paper, sewn and bound in cloth, these novels are elegant additions to any Wodehouse fan's library.
P. G. Wodehouse (1881--1975) was born in Surrey, educated in London, and spent much of his life in Southampton, Long Island, becoming an American citizen in 1955. In a literary career spanning more than seventy years, he published more than ninety books, twenty film scripts, and collaborated on more than thirty plays and musical comedies.
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I reached out a hand from under the blankets, and rang the bell for Jeeves.
'Good evening, Jeeves.'
'Good morning, sir.'
This surprised me.
'Is it morning?'
'Are you sure? It seems very dark outside.'
'There is a fog, sir. If you will recollect, we are now in Autumn -- season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.'
'Season of what?'
'Mists, sir, and mellow fruitfulness.'
'Oh? Yes. Yes, I see. Well, be that as it may, get me one of those bracers of yours, will you?'
'I have one in readiness, sir, in the ice-box.'
He shimmered out, and I sat up in bed with that rather unpleasant feeling you get sometimes that you're going to die in about five minutes. On the previous night, I had given a little dinner at the Drones to Gussie Fink-Nottle as a friendly send-off before his approaching nuptials with Madeline, only daughter of Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE, and these things take their toll. Indeed, just before Jeeves came in, I had been dreaming that some bounder was driving spikes through my head -- not just ordinary spikes, as used by Jael the wife of Heber, but red-hot ones.
He returned with the tissue-restorer. I loosed it down the hatch, and after undergoing the passing discomfort, unavoidable when you drink Jeeves's patent morning revivers, of having the top of the skull fly up to the ceiling and the eyes shoot out of their sockets and rebound from the opposite wall like racquet balls, felt better. It would have been overstating it to say that even now Bertram was back again in mid-season form, but I had at least slid into the convalescent class and was equal to a spot of conversation.
'Ha!' I said, retrieving the eyeballs and replacing them in position. 'Well, Jeeves, what goes on in the great world? Is that the paper you have there?'
'No, sir. It is some literature from the Travel Bureau. I thought that you might care to glance at it.'
'Oh?' I said. 'You did, did you?'
And there was a brief and -- if that's the word I want -- pregnant silence.
I suppose that when two men of iron will live in close association with one another, there are bound to be occasional clashes, and one of these had recently popped up in the Wooster home. Jeeves was trying to get me to go on a Round-The-World cruise, and I would have none of it. But in spite of my firm statements to this effect, scarcely a day passed without him bringing me a sheaf or nosegay of those illustrated folders which the Ho-for-the-open-spaces birds send out in the hope of drumming up custom. His whole attitude recalled irresistibly to the mind that of some assiduous hound who will persist in laying a dead rat on the drawing-room carpet, though repeatedly apprised by word and gesture that the market for same is sluggish or even non-existent.
'Jeeves,' I said, 'this nuisance must now cease.'
'Travel is highly educational, sir.'
'I can't do with any more education. I was full up years ago. No, Jeeves, I know what's the matter with you. That old Viking strain of yours has come out again. You yearn for the tang of the salt breezes. You see yourself walking the deck in a yachting cap. Possibly someone has been telling you about the Dancing Girls of Bali. I understand, and I sympathize. But not for me. I refuse to be decanted into any blasted ocean-going liner and lugged off round the world.'
'Very good, sir.'
He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled, so I tactfully changed the subject.
'Well, Jeeves, it was quite a satisfactory binge last night.'
'Oh, most. An excellent time was had by all. Gussie sent his regards.'
'I appreciate the kind thought, sir. I trust Mr Fink-Nottle was in good spirits?'
'Extraordinarily good, considering that the sands are running out and that he will shortly have Sir Watkyn Bassett for a father-in-law. Sooner him than me, Jeeves, sooner him than me.'
I spoke with strong feeling, and I'll tell you why. A few months before, while celebrating Boat Race night, I had fallen into the clutches of the Law for trying to separate a policeman from his helmet, and after sleeping fitfully on a plank bed had been hauled up at Bosher Street next morning and fined five of the best. The magistrate who had inflicted this monstrous sentence -- to the accompaniment, I may add, of some very offensive remarks from the bench -- was none other than old Pop Bassett, father of Gussie's bride-to-be.
As it turned out, I was one of his last customers, for a couple of weeks later he inherited a pot of money from a distant relative and retired to the country. That, at least, was the story that had been put about. My own view was that he had got the stuff by sticking like glue to the fines. Five quid here, five quid there -- you can see how it would mount up over a period of years.
'You have not forgotten that man of wrath, Jeeves? A hard case, eh?'
'Possibly Sir Watkyn is less formidable in private life, sir.'
'I doubt it. Slice him where you like, a hellhound is always a hellhound. But enough of this Bassett. Any letters today?'
'One, sir. From Mrs Travers.'
'Aunt Dahlia? She's back in town, then?'
'Yes, sir. She expressed a desire that you would ring her up at your earliest convenience.'
'I will do even better,' I said cordially. 'I will call in person.'
And half an hour later I was toddling up the steps of her residence and being admitted by old Seppings, her butler. Little knowing, as I crossed that threshold, that in about two shakes of a duck's tail I was to become involved in an imbroglio that would test the Wooster soul as it had seldom been tested before. I allude to the sinister affair of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett, old Pop Bassett, Stiffy Byng, the Rev. H. P. ('Stinker') Pinker, the eighteenth-century cow-creamer and the small, brown, leather-covered notebook.
No premonition of an impending doom, however, cast a cloud on my serenity as I buzzed in. I was looking forward with bright anticipation to the coming reunion with this Dahlia -- she, as I may have mentioned before, being my good and deserving aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin. Apart from the mere intellectual pleasure of chewing the fat with her, there was the glittering prospect that I might be able to cadge an invitation to lunch. And owing to the outstanding virtuosity of Anatole, her French cook, the browsing at her trough is always of a nature to lure the gourmet.
The door of the morning room was open as I went through the hall, and I caught a glimpse of Uncle Tom messing about with his collection of old silver. For a moment I toyed with the idea of pausing to pip-pip and enquire after his indigestion, a malady to which he is extremely subject, but wiser counsels prevailed. This uncle is a bird who, sighting a nephew, is apt to buttonhole him and become a bit informative on the subject of sconces and foliation, not to mention scrolls, ribbon wreaths in high relief and gadroon borders, and it seemed to me that silence was best. I whizzed by, accordingly, with sealed lips, and headed for the library, where I had been informed that Aunt Dahlia was at the moment roosting.
I found the old flesh-and-blood up to her Marcel-wave in proof sheets. As all the world knows, she is the courteous and popular proprietress of a weekly sheet for the delicately nurtured entitled Milady's Boudoir. I once contributed an article to it on 'What The Well-Dressed Man Is Wearing'.
My entry caused her to come to the surface, and she greeted me with one of those cheery view-halloos which, in the days when she went in for hunting, used to make her so noticeable a figure of the Quorn, the Pytchley and other organizations for doing the British fox a bit of no good.
'Hullo, ugly,' she said. 'What brings you here?'
'I understood, aged relative, that you wished to confer with me.'
'I didn't want you to come barging in, interrupting my work. A few words on the telephone would have met the case. But I suppose some instinct told you that this was my busy day.'
'If you were wondering if I could come to lunch, have no anxiety. I shall be delighted, as always. What will Anatole be giving us?'
'He won't be giving you anything, my gay young tapeworm. I am entertaining Pomona Grindle, the novelist, to the midday meal.'
'I should be charmed to meet her.'
'Well, you're not going to. It is to be a strictly tête-à-téte affair. I'm trying to get a serial out of her for the Boudoir. No, all I wanted was to tell you to go to an antique shop in the Brompton Road -- it's just past the Oratory -- you can't miss it -- and sneer at a cow-creamer.'
I did not get her drift. The impression I received was that of an aunt talking through the back of her neck.
'Do what to a what?'
'They've got an eighteenth-century cow-creamer there that Tom's going to buy this afternoon.'
The scales fell from my eyes.
'Oh, it's a silver whatnot, is it?'
'Yes. A sort of cream jug. Go there and ask them to show it to you, and when they do, register scorn.'
'The idea being what?'
'To sap their confidence, of course, chump. To sow doubts and misgivings in their mind and make them clip the price a bit. The cheaper he gets the thing, the better he will be pleased. And I want him to be in cheery mood, because if I succeed in signing the Grindle up for this serial, I shall be compelled to get into his ribs for a biggish sum of money. It's sinful what these bestselling women novelists want for their stuff. So pop off there without delay and shake your head at the thing.'
I am always anxious to oblige the right sort of aunt, but I was compelled to put in what Jeeves would have called a nolle prosequi. Those morning mixtures of his are practically magical in their effect, but even after partaking of them one does not oscillate the bean.
'I can't shake my head. Not today.'
She gazed at me with a censorious waggle of the right eyebrow.
'Oh, so that's how it is? Well, if your loathsome excesses have left you incapable of headshaking, you can at least curl your lip.'
'Then carry on. And draw your breath in sharply. Also try clicking the tongue. Oh, yes, and tell them you think it's Modern Dutch.'
'I don't know. Apparently it's something a cow-creamer ought not to be.'
She paused, and allowed her eye to roam thoughtfully over my perhaps somewhat corpse-like face.
'So you were out on the tiles last night, were you, my little chickadee? It's an extraordinary thing -- every time I see you, you appear to be recovering from some debauch. Don't you ever stop drinking? How about when you are asleep?'
I rebutted the slur.
'You wrong me, relative. Except at times of special revelry, I am exceedingly moderate in my potations. A brace of cocktails, a glass of wine at dinner and possibly a liqueur with the coffee -- that is Bertram Wooster. But last night I gave a small bachelor binge for Gussie Fink-Nottle.'
'You did, did you?' She laughed -- a bit louder than I could have wished in my frail state of health, but then she is always a woman who tends to bring plaster falling from the ceiling when amused. 'Spink-Bottle, eh? Bless his heart! How was the old newt-fancier?'
'Did he make a speech at this orgy of yours?'
'Yes. I was astounded. I was all prepared for a blushing refusal. But no. We drank his health, and he rose to his feet as cool as some cucumbers, as Anatole would say, and held us spellbound.'
'Tight as an owl, I suppose?'
'On the contrary. Offensively sober.'
'Well, that's a nice change.'
We fell into a thoughtful silence. We were musing on the summer afternoon down at her place in Worcestershire when Gussie, circumstances having so ordered themselves as to render him full to the back teeth with the right stuff, had addressed the young scholars of Market Snodsbury Grammar School on the occasion of their annual prize giving.
A thing I never know, when I'm starting out to tell a story about a chap I've told a story about before, is how much explanation to bung in at the outset. It's a problem you've got to look at from every angle. I mean to say, in the present case, if I take it for granted that my public knows all about Gussie Fink-Nottle and just breeze ahead, those publicans who weren't hanging on my lips the first time are apt to be fogged. Whereas if before kicking off I give about eight volumes of the man's life and history, other bimbos who were so hanging will stifle yawns and murmur 'Old stuff. Get on with it.'
I suppose the only thing to do is to put the salient facts as briefly as possible in the possession of the first gang, waving an apologetic hand at the second gang the while, to indicate that they had better let their attention wander for a minute or two and that I will be with them shortly.
This Gussie, then, was a fish-faced pal of mine who, on reaching man's estate, had buried himself in the country and devoted himself entirely to the study of newts, keeping the little chaps in a glass tank and observing their habits with a sedulous eye. A confirmed recluse you would have called him, if you had happened to know the word, and you would have been right. By all the rulings of the form book, a less promising prospect for the whispering of tender words into shell-like ears and the subsequent purchase of platinum ring and licence for wedding it would have seemed impossible to discover in a month of Sundays.
But Love will find a way. Meeting Madeline Bassett one day and falling for her like a ton of bricks, he had emerged from his retirement and started to woo, and after numerous vicissitudes had clicked and was slated at no distant date to don the sponge-bag trousers and gardenia for buttonhole and walk up the aisle with the ghastly girl.
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Meet the Author
P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975) was a English writer of novels, stories, and musical theater, best known for his Jeeves and Blandings Castle series. Martin Jarvis is an accomplished actor who has been described by Vanity Fair as "the Olivier of audiobooks." He divides his time between London and Los Angeles.
- Date of Birth:
- October 15, 1881
- Date of Death:
- February 14, 1975
- Place of Birth:
- Guildford, Surrey, England
- Place of Death:
- Southampton, New York
- Dulwich College, 1894-1900
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This was my first reading of Wodehouse and I can promise you it won't be my last. There were numerous times I had to put the book down because I was literally laughing out loud. It was such a joy reading this book. I'm giddy with the knowledge there are so many more of his stories for me to enjoy.
I have listened to this tape many times over and every time laugh out loud. The plot is completely ridiculous: everyone chasing after a silver cow creamer and Spode's plan to become a dictator and leading a group called the 'Black Shorts' because all the Shirts were taken. Jonathan Cecil does an excellent job narrating. I highly recommend this book especially on long car rides.
Especially Bertie's description of Jeeves entering and exiting the room
What a delight! Highly recommended. Another great serious novel is "The Partisan" by a new author - William Jarvis. Both deserve A+++++
Bertie Wooster has had more than his share of trouble from well-meaning and ill-meaning aunts over the years, and while that sort of trouble disturbs him somewhat in this novel, he must deal more with the sort of trouble that comes from beautiful young women wanting to marry his friends. For example, Madeline Bassett, who is "undeniably of attractive exterior-slim, svelte, if that's the word, and bountifully equipped with golden hair and all the fixings." This beautiful thing plans to marry Bertie's friend, Augustus Fink-Nottle or Gussie, which is not a settled matter owing to her father's disapproval of him. If she cannot marry Gussie, however, she is resigned to marrying Bertie. Not that he wants to marry her, but somehow Madeline's got it locked between the ears that Bertie wants to marry her and is only deferring to Gussie, who got to her first. If there's one thing at which Bertie is extremely bad, it is convincing women he does not want to marry them once they've decided he does. And then there's Stiffy, or Stephanie Byng, who wants to marry Bertie's old college buddy, Harold "Old Stinker" Pinker. That arrangement isn't looking good either, because her uncle, Madeline's father, isn't going to allow to two undesirable men to marry the girls of his charge in one weekend, if ever. So Stiffy asks Bertie to stage a situation for Harold to impress himself on her uncle, and those types of things never work out as planned. This one actually calls for blood, so Bertie isn't eager to give it his all. But he could give them all up and leave the country or at least Totleigh Towers, if only his favorite aunt hadn't forced him into a difficult task. He must pinch a silver cow creamer. If he fails to abscond with the ghastly antique, his aunt will bar him from her house and her famous chef's delicious meals; but if he does steal the cow-shaped server, no lack of evidence to the deed will prevent him from being pounded by Roderick Spode, a close friend to the owner of the desired silver creamer. "Don't you ever read the papers?" Gussie asks. "Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts. His general idea, if her doesn't get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his followers indulge, is to make himself a Dictator. . . . He and his adherents wear black shorts." "Footer bags, you mean?" "Yes." "How perfectly foul." Of course, such a man is more than able to deliver a good pounding to creamer stealers. Through it all, Bertram Wooster lives up to his family code to never leave a friend in the lurch, even at personal cost. As with almost everything I've read by Wodehouse, this book doesn't not take all the predictable turns, and even when you know what's going to happen, it's hilarious to follow it through
This is the culmination of P. G. Wodehouse's comic art. It is one of his Jeeves novels, which, of course, feature Bertie Wooster, an impossibly upper-class slacker, and his butler, Jeeves, who has almost godlike powers of diplomacy, which he uses to rescue Bertie from dreadful situations. Wodehouse was about sixty when he wrote this, and he had about forty novels already under his belt. Altogether he wrote about ninety, living, as he did, until the age of ninety-three. Mystery writers and science fiction authors can churn books out rapidly, but that Wodehouse wrote comedic novels at such a rate makes him unique. That about twenty of his novels are laugh-out loud funny is extraordinary. I can't really describe how light and airy and fairly wicked this book is. I can only recommend it to anybody who loves the old screwball comedies. You'll be knocked out.
All of the P.G. Wodehouse novels about Bertram ('Bertie') Wooster and his gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves, are funny. Some are reasonably complicated in their plots. But none compare to this classic in the series. From the beginning, Bertie is up against impossible odds. Sent by his Aunt Dahlia to sneer at a Cow Creamer, Bertie dangerously bumps into Sir Watkyn Bassett, the magistrate who once fined him five guineas for copping a policeman's helmet on Boat Race night, and Roderick Spode, Britain's aspiring fascist dictator. The only trouble in this encounter is that Bertie is clutching the Cow Creamer on the sidewalk after having tripped on a cat and falling through the front door, and Sir Watkyn recognizes him as a former criminal. Barely escaping arrest on the spot, Bertie returns home to find that Aunt Dahlia wants him to debark immediately for Totley Towers where Sir Watkyn has just taken the Cow Creamer he has purchased after pulling a ruse on Uncle Tom. When there, Bertie is to steal the Cow Creamer. At the same time, he receives urgent telegrams from his old pal, Gussie Fink-Nottle, to come to Totley Towers to save his engagement to Madeleine Bassett. Bertie feels like he is being sent into the jaws of death. Jeeves immediately fetches up a plot to get Madeleine Bassett, to whom he has been affianced twice, to invite Bertie to her father's home. Upon arriving, Sir Watkyn and Roderick Spode immediately catch him holding the Cow Creamer. Sir Watkyn threatens years in jail, until Madeleine comes in to rescue him. But Sir Watkyn proceeds to assume that everything that goes wrong from then is due to Bertie. For once, Bertie is the innocent party. But he takes the rap anyway, because of the code of the Woosters, never let a pal down. Never has anyone had a goofier set of pals. Gussie Fink-Nottle has developed spiritually so that he has less fear, but his method of achieving this soon puts him in peril. Stephanie 'Stiffy' Byng, Sir Watkyn's niece, has to be the goofiest acquaintance that Bertie has. She is a one-woman wrecking machine for creating havoc. Her fiance, another old pal of Bertie's, 'Stinker' Pinker, the local curate, is only slightly better. Just when you cannot see any way that Bertie can avoid gaol, Jeeves comes up with one brilliant plan after another. It's truly awe-inspiring as well as side-splittingly funny. P.G. Wodehouse remarked that he preferred to write as though the subject were musical comedy, and he has certainly captured that mood here at its vibrant best. You'll be on the edge of your chair and trying to avoid falling on the floor laughing at the same time. After you've followed more twists and turns than existed in the Labyrinth at Crete, consider how far you would go to save a pal . . . or to keep a secret . . . or to protect a loved one. What should the personal code be? Be generous with your friends and to all humankind. Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
This Overlook Press version is elegant, having a blank light blue cloth cover with tasteful gold lettering of the title and author on the spine only. It's small and light with a nice feel. Leave it setting around, the look and feel invite a Wodehouse uninitiate to pick up and read. That's the way I discovered Wodehouse, one of the pleasant surprises of my life. I like to read 'Right Ho, Jeeves' before 'Code of the Woosters.' It's not as funny but gets you into the Wodehouse rhythm, has classic scenes of its own, and plot and character-wise leads into 'Code.' Overlook Press just published both, the first of a forthcoming set. They are my two favorites, showing me Overlook knows their Wodehouse. In these two there is an effortless quality in the sentences, plot twistings, and humor. The laughter of the reader is genuine, not forced. The 'Englishness' of Bertie and Jeeves is `just right.¿ Even Wodehouse, the master, didn¿t always achieve these. There is one unfortunate, strainingly jocular reference to black people in each book. In 'Code of the Woosters', Bertie describes in his involved, lingering way someone seen in shadows as resembling a negress. In 'Right Ho, Jeeves' there is a disparaging play on the name Uncle Tom, Aunt Dahlia's husband. Colloquialisms, slang, and cool expressions of the day are very dated but surprisingly don't detract much or even remind the reader overly of the age of the writing. In any case, they are numerous, varied and inventive. The 'main course' of Wodehouse, the measured, balanced, leisurely, complicated and amazingly humorous sentences, are here in generous portion. One might be a paragraph or half a page long and seems to reach back in time to include the whole history of the topic until finally coming to the point in, say, the last six or seven words. That point is like a punchline of a joke and you never know what it will be, where Bertie is going with his well-constructed rambling. Jeeves is the great presence in the books, but mostly an unseen presence. His total dialogue is sparse, his appearances few and brief (he's always 'shimmering out' after a few lines), but he exists as powerfully as Bertie, who is always speaking.