For all you ardent Wodehouse fans, I have fine news.
Much Obliged, Jeeves is one of the funniest Wodehouse books I have read.
The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Much Obliged, Jeeves”
Why is Much Obliged, Jeeves so hilarious? I put it down to a consistency and richness of comic language from start to finish. In between laughing out loud and wiping the tears from my eyes, I noted so many fine lines that I had to cut the total down radically for this blog.
Here is my selection of quotations from Much Obliged, Jeeves:
- I am always glad… to renew my acquaintance with the unbeatable eatables dished up by her superb French chef Anatole, God’s gift to the gastric juices. I have often regretted that I have but one stomach to put at his disposal.
- [Of Aunt Dahlia’s stentorious voice] ‘I wonder whether she ever sang lullabies to me in my cradle. If so, it must have scared me cross-eyed, giving me the illusion that the boiler had exploded.’
- ‘My fiancée wanted me to,’ he said, and as his lips framed the word ‘fiancée’ his voice took on a sort of tremolo like that of a male turtle dove cooing to a female turtle dove.
- [Of Florence Craye’s play, Spindrift] One of the critics said he had perhaps seen it at a disadvantage because when he saw it the curtain was up.
- [Of Florence Craye] She was tall and willowy with a terrific profile and luxuriant platinum-blonde hair; the sort of girl who might, as far as her looks were concerned, have been the star unit of the harem of one of the better-class sultans
- ‘Hallo, Reggie,’ he said, and I froze in my chair, stunned by the revelation that Jeeves’s first name was Reginald. It had never occurred to me before that he had a first name.
- Our views on each other were definite. His was that what England needed if it was to become a land fit for heroes to live in was fewer and better Woosters, while I had always felt that there was nothing wrong with England that a ton of bricks falling from a height on Spode’s head wouldn’t cure.
- ‘You know him?’ said the camera chap. ‘I’m sorry to say I do,’ said Spode, speaking like Sherlock Holmes asked if he knew Professor Moriarty.
- I was badly in need of alcoholic refreshment, and just as my tongue was beginning to stick out and blacken at the roots, shiver my timbers if Jeeves didn’t enter left centre with a tray containing all the makings.
- ‘[Spode] could get into Parliament without straining a sinew.’ ‘Then why doesn’t he?’ ‘He can’t you poor chump. He’s a lord.’ ‘Don’t they allow lords in?’ ‘No, they don’t.’ ‘I see,’ I said, rather impressed by this proof that the House of Commons drew the line somewhere.
- ‘Anatole gave us his Mignonette de poulet petit Duc last night, and he tucked into it like a tapeworm that’s been on a diet for weeks.’
- [Jeeves prepares Bertie for dinner] ‘Very good, sir. Pardon me, your tie.’ ‘What’s wrong with it?’ ‘Everything, sir. If you will allow me.’ ‘All right, go ahead. But I can’t help asking myself if ties really matter at a time like this.’ ‘There is no time when ties do not matter, sir.’
- McCorkadale gave that sniffing snort of hers. It was partly like an escape of steam and partly like two or three cats unexpectedly encountering two or three dogs, with just a suggestion of a cobra waking up cross in the morning.
- ‘You don’t know what these blighters here are like. Most of them are chapel folk with a moral code that would have struck Torquemada as too rigid.’
- Recent events had caused me to perspire in the manner popularised by the fountains at Versailles.
- … she was as sore as a sunburned neck.
- Voters are like aunts, you never know what they will be up to from one day to the next.
- ‘Titles are to a girl like catnip to a cat.’
- [Of Gus the cat] ‘he’s got about as much genuine intelligence as a Cabinet minister.’
- Someone made a noise like a dying soda-water syphon and it was presumably me.
- Her greeting could not have been more cordial. An aunt’s love oozed out from every syllable. ‘Hallo, you revolting object,’ she said.
- She kept it crisp. None of the “Er” stuff which was such a feature of Ginger’s oratory. Even Demosthenes would have been slower in coming to the nub, though he, of course, would have been handicapped by having to speak in Greek.
- The following day dawned bright and clear, at least I suppose it did, but I wasn’t awake at the time.
Much Obliged, Jeeves also contains a fine example of Bertie’s occasional existential tendencies, as glimpsed also in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site):
- ‘Oh, it’s you,’ she said, which it was of course.
I have now read 14 of the 20 Jeeves and Wooster masterpieces contained in the collection noted in my first blog on this subject, How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide. I have found them consistently good. Astonishingly, Much Obliged, Jeeves was published on 15 October 1971, Wodehouse’s 90th birthday, and was the penultimate Jeeves and Wooster novel (the last was Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, published in 1974). The quality of the writing in both books, when Wodehouse was beyond elderly, is a fantastic testament to a) Wodehouse’s ability, unlike 99% of novelists, to maintain a consistent quality of writing over decades, and b) how writing can maintain an author’s mental acuity. Even in his ’90s, Wodehouse still wrote around 1,000 words a day. So far as I am aware, he was by no means a health freak.
What else can I recommend? Recent pleasures have included Thank You, Jeeves (click link for five wondrous quotations) Right Ho, Jeeves (14 fruity quotes), Ring for Jeeves and Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves – both teeming with quotables – and Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (no less than 22 delicious highlights).
I hope in these effort to make at least some small contribution to remedy the distressing paucity of quality Wodehouse quotes on the Internet.
If you would like to sample my own efforts at comic writing, take a look at my collection of Seven Hotel Stories.