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Posts Tagged ‘Very Good Jeeves’

ashokbhatia

In quite a few escapades of Bertie Wooster and his bosom pals, we come across headmistresses and headmasters who remind us of our own days at school. Many of us might not have ever won a prize for Scripture Knowledge, but the mere mention of a brightly authoritative gaze touches the darker realms of our individual scholastic experiences. Invariably, it is not only about the stern look and the stiff upper lip. It is also about our dread of public speaking – and of juicy canes in the soft spots.

The tyranny of these strict disciplinarians does not remain confined to childhood days alone. It often pops up years later when their understudies have grown into adulthood. Even a chance encounter leaves Bertie shaking like an aspen and fearing yet another admonition at the hands of the lion-tamers.

The Female Lion-tamer

Take the case of Miss Mapleton in Jeeves and…

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In quite a few escapades of Bertie Wooster and his bosom pals, we come across headmistresses and headmasters who remind us of our own days at school. Many of us might not have ever won a prize for Scripture Knowledge, but the mere mention of a brightly authoritative gaze touches the darker realms of our individual scholastic experiences. Invariably, it is not only about the stern look and the stiff upper lip. It is also about our dread of public speaking – and of juicy canes in the soft spots.

The tyranny of these strict disciplinarians does not remain confined to childhood days alone. It often pops up years later when their understudies have grown into adulthood. Even a chance encounter leaves Bertie shaking like an aspen and fearing yet another admonition at the hands of the lion-tamers.

The Female Lion-tamer

Take the case of Miss Mapleton in Jeeves and the Kid Clementina. She lords over the affairs of St VeryGoodJeevesMonica’s, a girls’ school at Bingley-on-Sea. She wears steel-rimmed spectacles which glitter rather nastily. She is short in inches but makes up for it by possessing the quiet air of being unwilling to brook any nonsense. She exudes the air of a female lion-tamer. Unfortunately, she also happens to be a friend of Aunt Agatha.

In Very Good, Jeeves, despite being in town, Bertie attempts to avoid meeting her so as to escape the trauma of being asked to address the school girls. Well, fate and Roberta Wickham will it otherwise and he ends up facing Miss Mapleton. However, thanks to Jeeves, matters get arranged in such a way that Bertie does not earn a reprimand. Instead, he is shown in a favorable light, thereby ensuring Miss Mapleton’s transformation into a rather chummy lion-tamer. The outcome is a highly favorable letter getting posted by her to Aunt Agatha, praising the gallant and courteous conduct of Bertie.

An Outstanding Menace

Then we have the popular ex-headmaster Rev. Aubrey Upjohn who used to terrorise Bertie while in his study at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, the preparatory school. He often used to flex his shoulder muscles by swinging his cane with burning eyes, foam-flecked lips and flame coming out of both nostrils. Bertie used to sneak down to his study at dead of night looking for biscuits he kept there. On one occasion, he found him seated there, relishing the biscuits himself. Next morning, six of the juiciest from his sinister cane on the old spot followed. On another occasion, Bertie faced a trial for having broken the drawing-room window with a cricket ball.

This is how Reginald (‘Kipper’) Herring cheers up Bertie:

‘You know, Bertie, we have much to be thankful for in this life of ours, you and I. However rough the going, there is one sustaining thought to which we can hold. The storm clouds may lower and the horizon grow dark, we may get a nail in our shoe and be caught in the rain without an umbrella, we may come down to breakfast and find that someone else has taken the brown egg, but at least we have the consolation of knowing that we shall never see Aubrey Gawd-help-us Upjohn again. Always remember this in times of despondency.’

Fifteen years later, he is back in circulation, though mellowed down somewhat. The wide, bare upper lipPGW JeevesInTheOffing now sports a moustache, thereby reducing the severity of his appearance. In Jeeves in the Offing, he is aspiring to run as a Conservative candidate in the Market Snodsbury division at the next by-election. To create a good impression, he must deliver a flawless speech to the young scholars of Market Snodsbury Grammar School. To do so, he must get back the neatly typed out speech which, thanks to Jeeves, has come into the possession of Roberta Wickham.

The love of Roberta’s life, Kipper, has made uncharitable remarks about Aubrey Upjohn’s book on preparatory schools in Thursday Review. Thus, a libel suit is getting instituted by the Reverend against the magazine, and Kipper is sure to get a sack. The mantle of striking a bargain – that in return for the manuscript, Aubrey Upjohn would withdraw the libel suit – falls on Bertie. Predictably, his spirit fails him. Roberta promptly takes the lead and clinches the deal.

Aubrey Upjohn also pops up in Bertie’s reminscinces in The Mating Season. While checking the script of a play, he recalls how his English essays used to get blue-pencilled by the outstanding menace. At the end of a series of announcements, he would often conclude with a curt crack directing Wooster to see him in his study after the evening prayers.

No Nonsense

And who can forget Miss Tomlinson? She makes a brief appearance in Bertie Changes his Mind. She isPGW CarryOnJeeves the strong-minded headmistress of a girls’ school near Brighton. According to Jeeves, she is just like Bertie’s Aunt Agatha – with the same penetrating and brightly authoritative gaze. She has the indefinable air of being reluctant to stand any nonsense and has real grip over the young girls in her charge. When Bertie ends up fumbling with his speech to the assembly of girls, she brings the proceedings to a brisk end. When she starts investigating the fact of her students smoking in the shrubbery, enjoying the cigarettes provided by Bertie, the only option left for him is to hide beneath the rear seat carpet of the car and urge Jeeves to drive out of the school premises without further delay.  (Carry on, Jeeves).

Like many other characters from diverse walks of life which keep waltzing in and out of Bertie Wooster’s and Jeeves’ lives, the headmistresses and headmasters leave us with a feeling of dread. Under the inimitable spell of P G Wodehouse, we wilt and we shiver. We just love to hate them. Nevertheless, imagination boggles as to how drab the proceedings would have been otherwise!

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