Monthly Archives: February 2013

Story for first meeting: Jeeves Takes Charge

I’m hoping that the first meeting of The Denver of the Secret Nine could be in May, perhaps the first Saturday (May 4), but until that date is confirmed, I thought I’d throw out a suggestion for the first story to be discussed.

This issue might contain “Leave It To Jeeves”

To me, Bertie and Jeeves are the essence of Wodehouse. However delightful Lord Emsworth and Psmith and the golf stories might be, I find my greatest joy following the daft exploits of Albert Wooster and his valet Jeeves. So I thought we might inspect the birth of this dynamic duo by reading Jeeves Takes Charge, which first appeared (according to the U.K. P.G. Wodehouse Society) on Nov. 18, 1916, in the Saturday Evening Post.

It’s not the first pairing of Jeeves and Wooster; I think that can be found in Extricating Young Gussie. Those earlier stories, however, cannot be considered definitive. For instance, the story Fixing It For Freddie that appeared in the collection Carry On, Jeeves, was actually a reworking of Helping Freddie, an earlier story that featured a sort of primordial Wooster and no Jeeves. Even Extricating Young Gussie has only what you might call a walk-on role for Jeeves.

This is the paperback edition I own

And so even though it’s not the first Jeeves/Wooster story, Jeeves Takes Charge certainly can be thought of as the well spring for all that was to come, from ladies lingerie to cow creamers to enraged geese. Fittingly, it’s the first story that Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry filmed for their Jeeves & Wooster series. They took a few liberties with … OK, they took a lot of liberties, but Bertie still hires Jeeves based on the efficacy of Jeeves’ patented pick-me-up and he plucks the young master out of the soup, so that’s close enough for me.

Now if pressed against the wall at gunpoint, I might admit this isn’t the greatest of the stories. It‘s really an unpolished stone. One can’t help of thinking of Bertie’s observation in another early story how, at this early stage in their relationship, that he didn’t yet know to turn to his valet for help and advice. Jeeves, in fact, must take charge and help, even if at first blush Bertie might not think it quite the help he wanted.

To get ready for our first meeting, you might want to find a copy of Carry On, Jeeves, which is a collection of ten stories, including this. The wikipedia article has been criticized as too long and excessively detailed, which sounds like a plus to me. You can read the story here or here and listen to it here or click below (don’t be alarmed at the story being called “chapter 18”).

Finally a rather strange take on the story:

Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend

Opinion has not been kind about the new Blandings series on the BBC. One wag called it “Something Nasty in the Wodehouse,” which I thought rather clever, although I don’t join the camp that considers the series as some offering from the Empress that one must scrape from one’s shoes. It obviously much too broad with silly sound effects and too much chatter, but I still think it’s jolly fun to have Wodehouse on television. It’s been too long since Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie played Bertie and Jeeves and any sort of Wodehouse, I think, is better than none.

Here’s the description of this episode from wikipedia:

When the gardener Angus McAllister (Ron Donachie) resigns on the eve of the Blandings Fete and the visit of the children from the London Fresh Air Society, Clarence must do everything he can to get him back, including agreeing to allow his beloved moss path to be gravelled. Among the children are Gladys (Molly Colin) and her younger brother Ern (Ashley Foster). The newly reformed Freddie determines to keep on the straight and narrow by helping his father avoid having to give a speech and wear a top hat at the fete, until he is tempted by the children’s attractive teacher, Miss Younghusband (Emily Beecham). When McAllister makes it a condition of his staying that The Empress should go and that no more flowers are to be cut in the garden it is a demand too far for Clarence. When Gladys is locked up with The Empress by Connie for throwing a stone at McAllister’s shin who is chasing her for picking flowers and stealing sandwiches and a slice of cake for her brother Ern, her stone throwing prowess and love of flowers endear her to Clarence as he comes to her rescue and stands up to McAllister.

What’s up with the name?

The Denver of the Secret Nine is an admittedly tortured misuse of a fictitious book title or predicament that P.G. Wodehouse used in several stories.

From Mating Season:

And that, of course, was that. It was no good telling her that I would prefer not to touch young Thos with a ten-foot pole and that I disliked taking on blind dates. When Aunt Agatha issues her orders, you fill them. But I was conscious, as I have indicated, of an uneasiness as to the shape of things to come, and it didn’t make the outlook any brighter to know that Gussie Fink-Nottle would be among those present at Deverill Hall. When you get trapped in the den of the Secret Nine, you want something a lot better than Gussie to help you keep the upper lip stiff.

And Heavy Weather:

‘Too risky. You don’t know what that house is. There’s Lady Constance after the thing and Gally Threepwood after the thing and Ronnie Fish and … well, as I said to Monty Bodkin this afternoon, a fellow trying to smuggle that manuscript out of the place is rather like a chap in a detective story trapped in the den of the Secret Nine.’

For the moment, it’s the provisional name of the Denver chapter of The Wodehouse Society.

Please join The Denver of the Secret Nine

What ho! fellow Wodehousians. The square states have been sorely lacking in any societies “of agreeable human beings who share an admiration of Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse and the rich products of his imagination.” Those products include the immortal Jeeves and Wooster, the inmates of Blandings Castle, Psmith and a multitude of Mulliners too numerous to count. Continue reading