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.
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.
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: