REVIEW: My Man Jeeves (1919)

A Collection of short stories by P.G. Wodehouse

It wasn’t that long ago that I read another P.G. Wodehouse novel, The Code of the Woosters, and absolutely loved it. That particular book was the basis for a handful of episodes of the classic 1990’s television series Jeeves and Wooster starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Like many, that show was my introduction to the world of P.G. Wodehouse and the characters of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. Seeing that I had jumped to something like what is the seventh book in the series, I decided to go backwards and start with the first book from 1919, although there is a book of “prototype” short stories from prior. To no surprise, the stories in My Man Jeeves are not as polished as that book that came decades later. You can see the characters getting their footing a bit, and even a few false starts with characters that eventually became Jeeves and Wooster characters as the author re-wrote them. I did recognize a few scenarios from that TV series, although they seem to have been adapted from the aforementioned book of reworked stories vs this collection. For all intents and purposes, this is largely extra content I had not read or seen yet.

“Who can forget our beloved gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves, who ever comes to the rescue when the hapless Bertie Wooster falls into trouble. My Man Jeeves is sure to please anyone with a taste for pithy buffoonery, moronic misunderstandings, gaffes, and aristocratic slapstick.

“Leave It to Jeeves”
“Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest”
“Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg”
“Absent Treatment”
“Helping Freddie”
“Rallying Round Old George”
“Doing Clarence a Bit of Good”
“The Aunt and the Sluggard””

If you are perhaps new to P.G. Wodehouse, his forte is basically mocking the upper-class of pre-WWII England as a bunch of crazy people of varying degree. His characters are largely buffoons that can barely handle their own affairs without their valets basically keeping them out of trouble (with Jeeves being a legend of the job title). Most of the young men are obsessed with being lazy dullards, and most of the women come off as somewhat air-headed or over-bearing. Wodehouse definitely had something to say about the so-called “Idle Rich” of his time, and their inane antics are well on view here in this book. There isn’t really a story that jumps out and grabs the reader in this volume, a lot of the stories had all the merits of later stories, but seem almost incomplete or vapid at times. To a degree this book is somewhat weighed down by “Reggie Stories”, a character that was more-or-less a proto-Bertie and as such most of the ideas we see in later books was not fully baked-in. Like stated before, this is understandable considering he had only been writing this stuff for a couple of years up to this point.

If you are interested in these characters, I would recommend not starting with this book and getting one of the later full novels for all the reasons stated above. Later on, if you like what you read, I’d say going back and reading where everything started would be a good idea. This was still enjoyable read and well worth my time nonetheless. If you are looking for some witty comedy full of ridiculous characters, you should really give this series a try. Hell, I’d settle for somebody watching the TV show, as it was always great.


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