Story Title: Jeeves and the unbidden Guest
Originally published: 1916
Collected In: Leave it to Jeeves
Brief Story Description: An old friend of Bertie Wooster’s dreaded Aunt Agatha, arrives on the doorstep to his New York Apartment asking him to look after her grown son, Motty while his mother researches her book on America. Motty has never been outside their small English village before and his mother is afraid he will be afraid of the bustle of New York. Wooster is horrified as he thinks Motty will just sit around the house all day, but Wooster is in for a greater shock when he finds Motty, out of his mother’s watchful eye, is going out on benders each night. It is only when Motty is arrested for punching a police officer does Wooster get any peace and quiet, but then the socialite has to work out how to explain things to the young man’s mother when she returns. Only with the genius of Jeeves, his faithful valet, can Wooster get himself out of bother.
Why it works humour wise: Jeeves and Wooster. A classic straight man and fall guy combo. Wooster is the idle rich playboy, whose only bother is the delicate social situations he gets himself into. Jeeves is his valet (or butler, if it’s easier to think of him that way) who has the genius of Sherlock Holmes. Jeeves in his quiet, reserved way, is able to think three steps ahead. Only after something has resolved at the last minute though, is it revealed that Jeeves was behind the turn up in good fortune all along. Jeeves is a good character, but he would be nothing without Wooster. Wooster’s petty rebellions against Jeeves, such as growing a moustache, or wearing an unfashionable hat, are delightful (Jeeves is his valet and so advises him what clothes to wear, much like a caddy at a golf course would help select the right clubs). Wooster often rewards Jeeves for a job well done, by conforming to the man’s fashion advice.
The stories work in a way of posing a problem, (usually involving a friend of Wooster’s, whose rich aunt or uncle is going to cut them out of the will and stop their allowance) then finding a creative way of solving the problem, which inevitably goes wrong. When the plan goes wrong, it is only by finding an even more zany scheme, can things work out alright in the end. The minor suffering and inconvenience to Wooster though as a result of such schemes, is where the humour comes from, as there are usually unexpected consequences along the way, which sees Wooster have to abandon his apartment for a few weeks (and the steadfast service of Jeeves) while things resolve themselves.
Further Comments: If one can surpass the aged trappings of these stories (and this very quickly shed) they are stories of interpersonal relationships and character. Being ninety years old, one would think these stories would be unreadable, but there is genius to them, and one can very quickly adapt to the older terms and language used.