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Posts Tagged ‘Jeeves’

Why is Wodehouse so very famous in India? In particular, why do Indians love Jeeves?!

Here is an interesting event coming up on the subject.

Plumtopia

What Ho!

Another treat for Wodehouse lovers is taking place at the British Library, this time as part of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival. A panel, involving MP and Author Shashi Tharoor, MP and journalist Swapan Dasgupta, business writer Mihir S. Sharma, and Wodehouse expert Tony Ring will be discussing:

The Wodehouse Effect : Why India Loves Jeeves: – JLF at The British Library

It’s an intriguing subject, and one that provokes a good deal of discussion amongst the chaps and chapettes in our little Wodehouse community. (Yes, chapettes! Don’t let the all-male panel or misguided notions about Wodehouse appealing mainly to men mislead you — he has a large and enthusiastic following among Indian women).

Many people have tried to explain the reasons for Wodehouse’s popularity in India, including Shashi Tharoor in a 2012 article How the Woosters Captured Delhi. In particular, he highlights Wodehouse’s wonderful use…

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For those who are new to the world of P G Wodehouse, here is a post which offers interesting tips on where to start devouring his sunlit works.

To those who already reside in Plumsville, this post offers a new perspective on the order in which his works may be savoured.

Plumtopia

world-of-jeevesThis piece is the second in a series of guides for readers wanting to discover the joys of Jeeves and Wooster, Blandings, and the wider world of Wodehouse ‘hidden gems’. The previous post provided reading suggestions for new Wodehouse readers.

Today’s piece offers a suggested reading order for the Jeeves and Wooster stories, followed by some general notes and guidance for readers.

If you particularly dislike short stories and want to skip straight to the novels, I suggest starting your reading from Right Ho, Jeeves.

Jeeves and Wooster Reading List

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PGW HughLaurie-BertieWoosterResidents of Plumsville would surely savour this delectable piece, if piece is indeed the word one wants, discovered somewhat late by yours truly!

Sloopjonb

A little festive jeu d’esprit, written in a spirit of sincere homage to the late Master, P. G. Wodehouse. Enjoy.

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ashokbhatia

The quiet evening saw the silver rays of moonshine descending upon Blandings Castle. The soft and silvery glow dimly lit up its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens and its outhouses. The frenzied revelries of Christmas were another month away. Peace prevailed. Tranquillity ruled.

Blandings castle-enIn the cozy smoking room of Blandings Castle, two persons could be sighted. In the big chair nearest to the door, one could see the Earl of Emsworth, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Plumsville. He had a cigar in his mouth and a weak highball at his side. His fuzzy brain was softly whispering in his ears that life could not get any better. His son, Hon. Freddie, was happily busy in America, executing his marketing plans for Donaldson’s Dog-Joy Biscuits. Lady Constance Keeble was off to some South American countries on a charity drive for a few more weeks. He was…

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Which are your favourite male characters from the Wodehouse canon?

Here is a discussion which many of the yet-to-be-affianced from the tribe of the delicately nurtured might like!

Plumtopia

Psmith Cover of the Bietti edition of Leave it to Psmith (1936) courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’d like to take a short break from my series exploring Wodehouse on Women  to share a remarkable piece entitled 111 Male Characters Of British Literature, In Order Of Bangability by Carrie Frye, in which Ms Frye lists 111 fictional characters she finds sexually desirable enough to take to her bed. Almost as astonishing as her stamina, is the fact that she includes not one, but three Wodehouse characters in her list of male sex objects. These are, in order of appearance:

Gussie Fink Nottle (at 106)

Bertram Wooster (at 87)

– Jeeves (at 65)

Gussie’s inclusion in the list defies belief, as does Jeeves, who at 65 ranks above the virile and irresistible Flashman.  Ms Frye gives her source for these appearances, as Right-Ho Jeeves and the story Extricating Young Gussie

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You know the kind of disasters which strike you once in a while. JustBertie image when you feel that life is a bed of roses, God is in heaven, and all is well with the world, Fate sneaks up from the back. Your Guardian Angel decides to proceed on a vacation. The blow falls.

Two weeks earlier, Aunt Agatha had set in motion yet another of her mould-the-wastrel-Bertie programs. Having been forced to be affianced to Honoria Glossop for this period had been a trying experience.

With each day came the challenge of having to read at least fifty odd pages of serious literature, often followed by a visit to some frightful art gallery or the other. Being made to attend quite a few classical concerts proved to be a traumatic experience. I was left convinced that blokes like Beethoven, if I get one of the names right, should have been banished from the country.

Mere participation in such pursuits was not considered sufficient. The fact that I was expected to actively participate in serious discussions and prove my intellectual mettle had left me all of a twitter.

Each and every encounter with my spouse-to-be proved to be an experience which tried the soul. Romance was a distant dream. Instead, talks of an intellectual kind dominated the discourse, leaving me in a highly enfeebled condition.

Then, one quiet evening, when Honoria and I were seated in the lobby, sipping tea and relishing some delicious hors d’oeuvres dished out by Spenser, Aunt Agatha’s butler, the blow fell.

‘Bertie,’ she said, ‘I have been thinking about our life after we get married.’

‘Eh? Oh, that sounds great.’

‘I think that valet of yours has too much of a negative influence on you,’ said Honoria.

A cold hand clutched at my heart.

‘You need to get rid of him,’ she said as she looked at me sharply, as if trying to gauge my reaction.

‘Get rid of Jeeves, do you mean?!’ I gasped.

‘Yes. I don’t like him.’

‘But he does a fine job of managing things in my life, don’t you think so?’

pgw-images-2‘Dear, you might be paying him a handsome salary, but he is the one who calls all the shots. Was he not the one who sent you on a futile midnight bicycle trip once, looking for a door key which was already with him? I hear that he keeps dominating you even over such trivial matters as the colour of your ties and the kind of jackets and hats you need to wear.’ said Honoria defiantly.

I gaped at her much as a clueless newt would have gaped at its mother when reprimanded for having not done its school homework.

‘But, dear, he also manages the house so very well. Everything in its place, taking care of guests, planning for lavish luncheons and dinners and what not, if you know what I mean. A most amazing cove, I would say.’

‘What is there in managing a house?’ said Honoria, glancing at me in a challenging manner. ‘I think I have a better solution.’

‘Hmm….and what might that be?’ I said, hope of a reprieve from a calamity gently starting to fade.

‘I would say we should provide you with a valet bot, enabled by state-of-art Artificial Intelligence. Perhaps, we can locate a valet which operates on Artificial Super Intelligence. It would take care of all your needs, and shall never boss you over. Never would it hold the view that you are a person who is, well, mentally negligible,’ said Honoria with that unique glint of enthusiasm in her eyes which girls normally get when they believe they are on to a really hot idea.

I shuddered. I knew that matrimonial alliances do tend to demand a lot of sacrifice on one’s part, but a supreme sacrifice of this magnitude? For the rest of my life, would I now wake up in the mornings with a humanoid approaching me not with a silver tray but with an iPad instead? The mind boggled.

In her zest, Honoria continued with her futuristic vision.

‘Bertie,’ she said, ‘I would go to the extent of suggesting that we re-do your entire flat. Make it a Smart Flat, so to say. What do you think?’

‘Er…I say, eh, what do you mean?’

‘Ooh, Bertie! Can’t you see? You will have the latest gadgets at your

Rembrandt

Rembrandt

place. A giant TV screen which would softly descend from the ceiling, enabling you to read serious and meaningful literature at the flick of a button. It would be backed by the latest multimedia functions. In the dining room, we shall put a giant screen which will keep showing paintings of such stalwarts as Edward Munch, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and the like. The study would get converted into a small theatre where, after sumptuous dinners, we shall be able to watch recordings of classical concerts from all over the world. Your intellectual proficiency would improve in no time. Father would be so very pleased.’

I tottered. Before I could lodge a feeble protest, she continued to narrate her frightful plans.

‘Bertie, the flat would have a universal software interface. Wi-Fi. Tea machines, ovens and gadgets which would be remote controlled. Retinal scanners at the entrance door. iPad-controlled door locks. Hidden flat-panel screens in all the rooms, which can be popped down at the flick of a button. Underwater lighting shows in the bath-tubs. Lighting fixtures and window blinds which can be shut at will, even by a remote. The place would be heavenly! Don’t you think so?! Would you not be happier, darling?’

‘But…er…listen, I say, I am happy the way things are, dear!’

‘Oh, Bertie, you are so very unromantic’, protested Honoria.

‘Well, dash it….., don’t you think that we shall need a software expert to manage all the advanced gadgets you indicate?’, I tried to reason, hope rearing its head yet again.

‘That is the beauty of the scheme I propose, dear. The moment such things get installed, Jeeves would find himself out of his depth. For all you know, pretty soon, he will put in his papers. That would bring sunshine and freedom back into your life.’

‘Sunshine? Freedom?’, I said doubtfully.

‘Bertie, would you or would you not fulfil this simple wish of mine?’

‘Hmm, let us think about it’, was the most I could mumble, just as my Guardian Angel decided to back me up, what with Spenser entering and announcing that my car had been brought to the gate. A perfunctory kiss on the cheeks of my spouse-to-be and I was off, temporarily elated at having had the wisdom of avoiding an unpleasant argument with Honoria. But the brow was decidedly furrowed. Dark crowds hovered over the horizon.

Reaching the metropolis, I decided to ward off the feeling of impending doom by stopping over briefly at Drones for a snifter. I can’t say it helped me much. As I headed for the flat, I brooded as much as my poor grey cells would allow me to, but could not come up with a solution to the challenge posed by my affianced. I just could not imagine a life without Jeeves. So very competent in every aspect.

Technology is all very well, if you know what I mean, but what about the human touch? Was there no value attached to the big head bulging at the back? The supreme intelligence which had so far protected me from so many disasters in life? Would a robot be able to whip up a pick-me-up, like Jeeves would, as and when necessary?

Could one count the number of times he had avoided the prospect of his master walking down the aisle with one of the finer specimens of the tribe of the delicately nurtured? What about his unique capacity of being able to judge the psychology of the individual? Could any robot even try to replicate a fraction of it?

As I entered the liar, things were as neatly arranged as ever. If Jeeves were to ever start offering consultation to big corporates in TQM or 5-S PGW HughLaurie-BertieWoosteror some such rot, he would be literally rolling in millions, I thought.

‘I trust your trip was satisfactory, sir?’, he asked deferentially, as he started unpacking the stuff.

‘I wish it had been that way’, Jeeves. ‘Do you think you could fix a w. and s. for me? Make it stiff, if you like’, I said.

In time, he waltzed in with a tissue restorative, a perfect picture of timely service and feudal zeal.

Having shoved down a couple of gulps down the hatch, I spilled the beans.

‘Jeeves, something frightful has happened.’

‘Indeed, sir?’

‘Time to come to the aid of the party, eh, what?’

‘My services are at your disposal, sir.’

‘Thanks to Aunt Agatha, I have got betrothed to Honoria Glossop.’

His left eyebrow went up a quarter of an inch. I am certain that Gandhi could have learnt a lesson in equanimity from Jeeves.

‘I wish you both great happiness together, sir.’

‘Thank you and what not. Though I realize that you would not approve of an alliance of this nature, you know what Aunt Agatha is like. Hitler himself could have taken a kindergarten course under her and failed to come up to her exacting standards.’

‘Perhaps you wish to convey that she comes up with proposals which try the soul, sir?’

‘Absolutely. What do you think, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, if the banns are getting announced, I wonder if I could get relieved of my responsibilities at an appropriate time?’

I was stupefied. Shaken to the core, if you know what I mean.

‘What makes you say that, Jeeves?’

‘You are aware, sir, that it is not my policy to serve in households where the master and his spouse are best left alone in rest and repose.’

‘I understand, Jeeves. In fact, Honoria has also been suggesting some frightful plans of upgrading the flat and make it more…..er, what is the word which has technology in it and ends with heavy or something?’

‘Perhaps you allude to the term tech-savvy, sir?’

‘Indeed. I wonder how you know all these things, Jeeves.’

‘Kind of you to say so, sir. I do believe that the future belongs to   those who are in sync with the Internet of Things.’

‘Internet of what things, Jeeves? Why do you always talk in terms of riddles?’

‘My apologies for having had the audacity of testing your patience, sir. I was referring to the rapid advancements in technology which are changing the way we interact with things, sir.’

‘Oh…like what?’

‘You may already know, sir, that robots and humanoids are increasingly taking over all kinds of routine tasks. Robots, algorithms and chatbots are becoming a part of everyday life. From Artificial Intelligence, people are trying to move on to Artificial General Intelligence and even Artificial Super Intelligence.’

‘Strange, Jeeves. How do you think things are going to shape up?’

‘Quite revolutionary, if I may venture to hazard a guess, sir. For example, the next time you walk into the Marriott Hotel in Belgium, a humanoid robot by the name of Mario could be checking you in. Likewise, the Hilton chain has launched Connie, a robot embedded with IBM’s Watson technology. As the trend picks up, hotel chains could replicate this experiment, thereby making you well known to all their properties across the world.’

wodehouse-characters‘Oh, so someone like Tuppy Glossop would no longer be able to get off with a misdemeanour at one of their swimming pools, looping the last ring or something of that kind?’

‘I fear not, sir. When you go for shopping, you may just need to punch some buttons and the desired object would appear on a screen. If you decide to buy, you punch another set of buttons, make the payment using internet banking, and the item would be offered to you on a designer conveyor belt, duly packed. No human intervention in the entire retailing process.’

‘Oh, so next time Aunt Dahlia asks me to go and sneer at a silver cow creamer at an antique shop, there will be no cove at the sales counter, registering my scorn?’

‘Quite likely, sir. In a similar vein, secretaries like Amy Ingram are now helping overworked office managers with quite a few of their mundane tasks. Thanks to a self-learning algorithm, Amy gets smarter all the time.’

‘Good news, indeed. So, there would no longer be a possibility of Aunt Dahlia wishing me to become the secretary of someone like Mr. A. B. Filmer, the Cabinet Secretary, who got thwarted by the overtures of an angry swan, what?’

‘Not really, sir. But at some future date, there is a possibility that our civilization reaches that state of perfection in its technological endeavours.’

‘But don’t you think we are being rather foolish, creating machines which might turn out to be smarter than us? The mind boggles. Sure enough, the foundations of our civilization are quivering.’

‘There is a lot of merit in what you say, sir. However, to be able to replicate the emotional responses and humane feelings of Homo Sapiens may not be easy. Eventually, both the skill-sets would be required for humanity to grow. As more and more routine tasks get done by robots, human beings can move higher up the cognitive and spiritual ladder.’

‘Do you think many other professions could also get invaded by this machine mania, Jeeves?’

‘I do believe so, sir. Even lawyers and judges could soon lose their jobs to their AI-enabled counterparts.’

‘Ah, what a relief that would be, Jeeves. Poor Aunt Dahlia, when trying to avoid my going in for thirty days without the option, would no longer need to offer the services of Anatole to such unscrupulous characters as Sir Watkyn Bassett, I guess.’

‘The contingency would indeed appear to be a remote one, sir.’

‘And what about the realm of tissue restoratives? That is an area you specialize in, Jeeves!’

‘I do believe, sir, that two young gentlemen from London have already come up with a brew called IntelligentX, which evolves its flavour based on responses from social media.’

‘But, surely, you would not spill the beans when it comes to those pick-me-ups of yours?’

‘That is a prospect which is best avoided, sir. But perhaps Ellie could solve quite a few of our problems.’

‘Oh, never heard of her. What am I missing, Jeeves?’

internet image 2‘Sir, Ellie is a virtual psychotherapy assistant in whom you can readily confide all your problems. I hear that scientists at the University of Southern California have developed her. She can help diagnose signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sir.’

‘But do you think she can replace such eminent loony doctors as Sir Roderick Glossop? After all, a specialist with his extensive practice can hardly help taking a rather warped view of humanity and might wish to check things first hand.’

‘Indeed, sir. But I believe that the eminent personality you refer to has already a couple of them working for him. This reduces his onerous overload of having to keep a tab on the vast number of patients he treats. In fact, just before you came in, Mrs. Gregson called up to say that one such specimen would be arriving soon enough to have a short diagnostic meeting with you.’

‘Oh, so what do you suggest, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, I would not wish to impose myself in any way. Nor would I like to stand in the way of the happiness of yourself and Miss Honoria.’

‘I respect this feudal approach of yours, Jeeves. That is precisely the reason I am seeking your support in the matter.’

robot-cat‘If so, with your permission, I would suggest using a virtual feline creature which is programmed to make the right noises at the right time, while Sir Roderick Glossop’s assistant is in a discussion with you. I had managed to borrow a specimen from one of the friends who had developed it and wanted it to be tested. Unless, of course, sir, you wish it otherwise….’

‘No, no, far from it, Jeeves,’ I butted in, hope dawning at last. ‘I appreciate this initiative of yours. But you mention only a single specimen. Last time, I thought, you had twenty-three cats!’ One always strived to get the numbers right, you see.

‘Thank you, sir. You are right about the last time. However, this time we are handling merely an assistant. Also, the robot cat I have in my possession now can generate ten different kinds of meows at random, thereby giving the impression that there are so many in the place.’

‘Splendid. So, we are also spared the trouble of encountering a dead fish wanting a written explanation and apology!’

‘Indeed, sir.’

‘By the way, may I know how did you manage to learn all this about the Internet of Things, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, bots powered by superior forms of Artificial Intelligence are soon likely to be the interface, shaping our interactions with the applications and the devices we rely on. Pretty soon, internet-connected cars, elevators and smart cities will pose newer challenges. Internet of Things is the future and I thought I have to be ready to be able to handle it.’

‘Don’t tell me that you are already an expert in handling computers, motherboards, servers, networks and the latest gizmos? You never fail to amaze, Jeeves!’

‘Kind of you to say so, sir. I merely strive to keep my skills upgraded at all times, so I may continue to provide satisfaction. Stephen R Covey has famously held that one should always keep one’s saw sharpened.’

‘Covey….who is this brainy cove?’

‘Sir, he is an expert who is revered in the field of management these days.’

‘But how did you manage to learn this much?’

‘A bit of money which an aunt of mine had bequeathed me came in handy some time back. Also, a little bit of subterfuge, sir, if I may confess. You may recall my having requested some leave last year around this time, sir?’

‘Yes, you said you wanted to hone your skills in shrimp farming, if I remember right.’

‘Your memory does not fail you, sir. In fact, I had used that time to take up an intensive course in the Internet of Things, sir.’

‘Well, well! How did you ever manage that?’

internet image 1‘Sir, the Junior Ganymede Club had earlier succeeded in forging a closer alliance with companies which make hi-tech gear for the aristocracy. Mr. Brigstock, the secretary of the club, had confided in me that talks with outfits like Crestron and Savant had eventually borne fruit. These companies have designed training programs to teach aspirants to my kind of service-oriented career as to how to run and troubleshoot smart-home systems. The club is already running a separate academy which imparts knowledge to wannabe gentlemen of gentlemen in IT networking and programming. This, it is hoped, would ward off the threat to this age old profession from bright engineers and IT-savvy youngsters who wish to improve upon their pecuniary circumstances and earn six-figure emoluments.’

‘You have certainly earned a hefty raise for yourself, Jeeves. Name it and you shall have it.’

‘I am much obliged for your generosity, sir,’ he said, suddenly looking at his iPad which was blinking softly.

‘Sir, one Ellie-99 from the office of Sir Glossop is at the door, seeking an interaction with you.’

‘Oh, already, eh, what? Is the virtual cat in place?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘In perfect working order, I hope?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Bung her in, then. Let us scare her off, so the fixture with Honoria gets scratched without further delay.’

‘Your wish is my command, sir,’ he said as he shimmered out to let Ellie-99 in.

(Illustrations courtesy the world wide web)

 

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Napoleon, had he been around in our times, would have been amused upon discovering the high level of influence he exerts over the residents of Plumsville. Much like a spiritual sun which shines with equal benevolence on all, his leadership traits and planning skills provide inspiration to almost all the characters we come across in the narratives dished out by Plum. Even in defeat and disorderly retreat, he does not fail to provide succour to a tormented soul. His soft power extends to a wide variety of situations and continues to enthuse many amongst us.

When it comes to handling a difficult task, Napoleon provides the inspiration. With him around, failure is not an option. When irate nerve specialists have to be confronted, his skills in planning wars come in handy.

Members of the so-called sterner sex shudder at the prospect of being expected to carve out a Napoleonic career for themselves so as to earn the respect of the delicately nurtured in their lives. Overbearing sisters get labelled as persons who could dominate even the likes of Napoleon.

When a goofy plan is laid bare, it gets listened to with the same reverence with which Napoleon was heard by his humble adherents.  When impelled by a youthful and hypnotic Napoleon, one meekly accepts a course of action which one does not really approve of oneself.

A confident and resourceful person often commands the reluctant respect of a woman, much like Napoleon would. The latter’s trait of going for the enemy’s weak point comes in for praise. When it comes to imperious gestures, Napoleon even gets compared to Henry VIII.

Should one have suffered a crushing defeat in an enterprise, mere mention of what Napoleon suffered at Moscow soothes the soul.

Here are some quotes which demonstrate the power that Napoleon exerts in various narratives of Plum.

Napoleon inspires Bingo Little

If Bingo Little has to save his job at Wee Tots, he has to attend a luncheonEggsBeansAndCrumpets being hosted by Bella Mae. The challenge he faces in doing so is to convince Mrs. Bingo to celebrate their wedding anniversary by having a dinner together, instead of a lunch.

“And then, after he had been sitting for a goodish time with his head in his hands, exercising every cell in his brain to its utmost capacity, he received an inspiration and saw what Napoleon would have done. A moment later, he was on the telephone, with Mrs. Bingo’s silvery voice are-you-there-ing at the other end. 

“Hullo, darling,” he said. 

“Hullo, angel,” said Mrs. Bingo. 

“Hullo, precious,” said Bingo. 

“Hullo, sweetie-pie,” said Mrs. Bingo. 

“I say, moon of my delight,” said Bingo, “listen. A rather awkward thing has happened, and I should like your advice as to how to act for the best. There’s a most important litterateuse we are anxious to land for the old sheet, and the question has arisen of my taking her out to lunch to-day.” 

“Oh, Bingo!” 

“Now, my personal inclination is to tell her to go to blazes.” 

“Oh, no, you mustn’t do that.” 

“Yes, I think I will. ‘Nuts to you, litterateuse? I shall say.” 

“No, Bingo, please! Of course you must take her to lunch.” 

“But how about our binge?” 

“We can have dinner instead.”

 “Dinner?”

 “Yes.”

 Bingo allowed himself to be persuaded. “Now, that’s an idea,” he said. “There, I rather think, you’ve got something.”

 “Dinner will be just as good.””

[The Editor Regrets (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)]

 

Napoleon sets the bar for a difficult task

Aunt Julia expects Ukridge to ingratiate himself with a tycoon of the jute industry and land a job, thereby doing something useful and ceasing to be what she calls a wastrel and an idler.

“‘Idler! I’ll trouble you! As if for a single day in my life, Corky, I have ever not buzzed about doing the work of ten men. Why, take the mere getting of that couple of quid from old Tuppy, for instance.

 ‘Simple as it sounds, I doubt if Napoleon could have done it. Tuppy, sterling fellow though he is, has his bad mornings. He comes down to the office and finds a sharp note from the President of Uruguay or someone on his desk, and it curdles the milk of human kindness within him. On these occasions he becomes so tight that he could carry an armful of eels up five flights of stairs and not drop one. And yet in less than a quarter of an hour I had got a couple of quid out of him.’

 ‘Oh, well, women say these things.”

 [Ukridge and the Old Stepper (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets)]

 

When failure is not an option

Reginald Mulliner is bucked up after his sterling performance at the villageAFewQuickOnes concert and is intent upon giving a piece of his mind to Sir Jasper Todd, the financier. He proceeds to Wissel Hall.

‘When Reginald reached the massive front door, the fact that repeated ringing of the bell produced no response suggested that the domestic staff had been given the night off to attend the concert. But he was convinced that the man he sought was somewhere inside, and as he had now thought of five more names to call him, bringing the total to eleven, he had no intention of being foiled by a closed front door. As Napoleon would have done in his place, he hunted around till he had found a ladder.

Bringing this back and propping it up against the balcony of one of the rooms on the first floor, he climbed up. He had now thought of a twelfth name, and it was the best of the lot.’

(A Few Quick Ones)

 

A singular absence of nerves of chilled steel

 A nerve specialist like Sir Roderick Glossop can hardly help taking a ratherThe Inimitable Jeeves 1st edition (1923) image courtesy of wikipedia warped view of humanity. It stands to reason that when Aunt Agatha plays a match-maker for his daughter Honoria, he wishes to check the Pumpkin Quotient of Bertie Wooster, the groom-to-be. Some cats in Bertie’s bedroom, a stolen hat and nerves of a weaker version of steel ensure that the fixture is scratched.

‘I say! This isn’t my hat!’

‘It is my hat!’ said Sir Roderick in about the coldest, nastiest voice I’d ever heard. ‘The hat which was stolen from me this morning as I drove in my car.’

 ‘But-’

 I suppose Napoleon or somebody like that would have been equal to the situation, but I’m bound to say it was too much for me. I just stood there goggling in a sort of coma, while the old boy lifted the hat off me and turned to Jeeves.

 ‘I should be glad, my man,’ he said, ‘if you would accompany me a few yards down the street. I wish to ask you some questions.’

 ‘Very good, sir.’

[Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch (The Inimitable Jeeves)]

 

The challenge of carving out a career

Eustace entices Bertie to visit Twing Hall, where, upon arrival, he runs into Cynthia.

‘Oh, hallo, old thing,’ I said.

Great pals we’ve always been. In fact, there was a time when I had an idea I was in love with Cynthia. However, it blew over. A dashed pretty and lively and attractive girl, mind you, but full of ideals and all that. I may be wronging her, but I have an idea that she’s the sort of girl who would want a fellow to carve out a career and what not. I know I’ve heard her speak favourably of Napoleon. So what with one thing and another the jolly old frenzy sort of petered out, and now we’re just pals. I think she’s a topper, and she thinks me next door to a loony, so everything’s nice and matey.

[The Great Sermon Handicap (The Inimitable Jeeves)]

 

Someone who could dominate even Napoleon

“Precisely as stated Lady Constance was in the amber drawing-room, APelicanAtBlandingssipping sherry and looking as formidable and handsome as ever. 

All Lord Emsworth’s sisters were constructed on the lines of the severer type of Greek goddess, except Hermione, who looked like a cook, and Connie in particular was remarkable for aristocratic hauteur and forcefulness of eye. One felt immediately on seeing her that there stood the daughter of a hundred earls, just as when confronted with Lord Emsworth one had the impression that one had encountered the son of a hundred tramp cyclists. He was wearing at the moment patched flannel trousers, a ragged shirt, a shooting coat with holes in the elbows and bedroom slippers. These, of course, in addition to the apprehensive look always worn by him when entering this formidable woman’s presence. From childhood onward she had always dominated him, as she would have dominated Napoleon, Attila the Hun and an all-in wrestling champion.”

 (A Pelican at Blandings)

 

Plans which are listened to with reverence

When Dolly lays out her plans, these get listened to with reverence, thoughMoneyForNothing tinged with some doubt.

‘Don’t you worry, Soapy. I’ve got this thing well in hand. When we’ve gone, you jump to the ‘phone and get Chimp on the wire and tell him this guy and I are on our way over. Tell him I’m bringing the kayo drops and I’ll slip them to him as soon as I arrive. Tell him to be sure to have something to drink handy and to see that this bird gets a taste of it.’

‘I get you, pettie!’ Mr. Molloy’s manner was full of a sort of awe-struck reverence, like that of some humble adherent of Napoleon listening to his great leader outlining plans for a forthcoming campaign; but nevertheless it was tinged with doubt. He had always admired his wife’s broad, spacious outlook, but she was apt sometimes, he considered, in her fresh young enthusiasm, to overlook details.

(Money for Nothing)

 

Being impelled by a youthful hypnotic Napoleon

Plans to park Ogden somewhere safe get made all the time. Mr. PrettPiccadillyJim reluctantly agrees to fall in line with Ann’s fruity scheme, a scheme he himself does not approve of.

‘In the boyhood of nearly every man there is a single outstanding figure, someone youthful hypnotic Napoleon whose will was law and at whose bidding his better judgment curled up and died. In Mr. Pett’s life Ann’s father had filled this role. He had dominated Mr. Pett at an age when the mind is most malleable. And now—so true is it that though Time may blunt our boyish memories the traditions of boyhood live on in us and an emotional crisis will bring them to the surface as an explosion brings up the fish that lurk in the nethermost mud—it was as if he were facing the youthful Hammond Chester again and being irresistibly impelled to some course of which he entirely disapproved but which he knew that he was destined to undertake. He watched Ann as a trapped man might watch a ticking bomb, bracing himself for the explosion and knowing that he is helpless. She was Hammond Chester’s daughter, and she spoke to him with the voice of Hammond Chester. She was her father’s child and she was going to start something.’

(Piccadily Jim)

The reluctant respect that Napoleon commands

With his tall claims, Mr. Bulpitt earns the reluctant respect of Lady Abbott.

‘You and your science!’

‘All right, then, me and my science.’

There was hostility in Lady Abbott’s eyes, but also a certain reluctant respect, such as the Napoleon type always extorts from women.

‘Have you ever been beaten at this game, Sam?’

‘Once only,’ said Mr. Bulpitt, with modest pride.

(Summer Moonshine)

 

Going straight for the enemy’s weak point

Joe tells Jane that his stepmother has bought the entire rights to his successfulSummerMoonshine (1) play and plans to take it off stage so as to avoid getting sniggered at by her close friends for some inappropriate parts therein. He is therefore planning to leave for California. Jane realizes that the cold fury she felt against Joe could well have been a deeper affection. The character of his stepmother comes into focus.

“Jane was in no mood to share this detached, sportsmanlike attitude.

‘She’s a hellhound.’

‘But a Napoleonic one. Like Napoleon, she sees the enemy’s weak point and goes straight at it, crumpling him up and causing him to fly from the field in rout. You see me now about to fly from the field.’”

(Summer Moonshine)

When Napoleon competes with Henry VIII

When Princess Dwornitzchek discovers that her stepson is engaged to be married to a secretary, she loses no time in ticking off Sir Buckstone.

“The Princess Dwornitzchek turned to Sir Buckstone with a sweeping gesture.

‘So!’ she said.

There are very few men capable of remaining composed and tranquil when a woman is saying ‘So!’ at them, especially when a sweeping gesture accompanies the word. Napoleon could have done it, and Henry VIII, and probably Jenghiz Khan, but Sir Buckstone was not of their number. He collapsed abruptly into his chair, as if he had been struck by a thunderbolt.”

(Summer Moonshine)

Retreating in disorder

The search for the prized Lady in Blue has left Jerry feeling defeated. HePGW TheGirlInBlue confides in Jane who is ready to buzz off to London on some legal errand.

‘My New York lawyer has come over and wants to see me. He’s just telephoned. Something about my legacy, I suppose. I’ll be back this evening. But never mind that, I want to hear what happened. How did you get on?’

‘Not too well.’

‘I thought as much.’

It had not taken great perception to bring her to this conclusion. Even at a distance he would have struck her as being on the sombre side. To be obliged to retreat in disorder from a stricken battlefield always tends to lower the spirits. Napoleon, who had this experience at Moscow, made no secret of the fact that he did not enjoy it, and Jerry, going through the same sort of thing at Mellingham Hall, Mellingham-in-the-Vale, was definitely not at his perkiest.

(The Girl in Blue)

 

Squelching back from Moscow

A confrontation between Augustus and Rocket has led to the party falling intoPGW JeevesInTheOffing the lake at Brinkley Court.

‘Reaching the mainland some moments later and squelching back to the house, accompanied by Bobbie, like a couple of Napoleons squelching back from Moscow, we encountered Aunt Dahlia, who, wearing that hat of hers that looks like one of those baskets you carry fish in, was messing about in the herbaceous border by the tennis lawn. She gaped at us dumbly for perhaps five seconds, then uttered an ejaculation, far from suitable to mixed company, which she had no doubt picked up from fellow-Nimrods in her hunting days.’

(Jeeves in the Offing)

 

The Napoleonic Code and the Wooster Code

Napoleon, born on the 15th of August, 1769, was a great military and political reader. His lasting legal achievement, the Napoleonic Code, is said to have influenced the legal systems of more than 70 nations around the world. According to British historian Andrew Roberts, “concepts such as meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.”

Some of these are rather close to the key values we find covered in the Code of the Woosters. As discussed elsewhere in a series of posts, the C of the W is not only about standing by one’s pals through thick and thin. It is also about equality before, and respect for, the law. It is about one being a Preux Chevalier. The spirit of Noblesse Oblige. The capacity to tame a hippopotamus like Roderick Spode by teamwork. Of having a bulldog spirit. Of refusing to be a doormat. Of being aware of one’s Pumpkin Quotient. Of attempting a pitiless analysis of one’s own actions.

The only aspect of the Wooster Code which would have possibly met with Napoleon’s stern disapproval would be that of upholding the feudal spirit. Being the proponent of a democratic outlook on life, he might have taken a dim view of aunts endeavouring to influence the cause of justice by offering to trade-off their favourite chefs so as to avoid the prospect of their nephews serving thirty days without the option.

Of ‘Napoleon Complex’ and the contempt for intellectuals

Napoleon’s sense of humour is said to have been so limited that he demandedNapoleon that all court painters refrain from putting a smile on any of his portraits.  As luck would have it, other than Roderick Spode, there are not many characters in Plum’s works that could be said to suffer from a ‘Napoleon Complex.’

Quite a few of the delicately nurtured fail in their attempts to raise the Bertie Wooster’s level of intellect by making him read such profound works as ‘Types of Ethical Theory’. Bertie has this innate tendency of avoiding intellectual pursuits of any kind. It is quite likely that Napoleon, had he ever run into him, would have heartily approved of this trait of his. The great strategist is reported to have once said that “You don’t reason with intellectuals; you shoot them.

A French honour for Plum?!

Given his poor sense of humour, it would have surely surprised someone like Napoleon to hear from one of his humble adherents about the kind of influence he exercises upon the goings-on in Plumsville.

Discovering the manner in which his sterling qualities of head and heart have been showcased by Wodehouse in his numerous works, Napoleon might have even considered making our beloved Master Wordsmith an honorary Knight in the French Legion Of Honour!

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/de-codifying-the-code-of-the-woosters)

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