Friday 18 September 2015

Jeeves & Wooster: 100 Years of Comic Rannygazoo

Jeeves came in with the tea.

'Jeeves,' I said, 'we start for America on Saturday.'

'Very good, sir,' he said; 'which suit will you wear?'

New York is a large city conveniently situated on the edge of America, so that you step off the liner right on to it without an effort. You can't lose your way. You go out of a barn and down some stairs, and there you are, right in among it.

The only possible objection any reasonable chappie could find to the place is that they loose you into it from the boat at such an ungodly hour.
And so one of the great comedy duos of English literature was established, exactly a century ago today.

On 18 September 1915, PG Wodehouse's short story Extricating Young Gussie appeared in the American weekly magazine, The Saturday Evening Post.

The Octagon at Hunstanton Hall, Norfolk,
memorably used as a setting in the 1930 short
story Jeeves and the Impending Doom.
I visited it in 2012.
Having been in publication since 1821, the Post was a grab-bag of opinion pieces, humorous items, poetry, fiction and illustrations (a year later it would discover the art of Norman Rockwell).

It was the perfect home for the trans-Atlantic comic fiction of Wodehouse, who was one of the first modern writers to establish a large following in both the UK and the USA.

A hundred years later, his fiction still reads well. Though it's set in a bygone age, that bygone age is itself a fantasy world which never truly existed; so it's still as entertaining an arena for Bertie Wooster's social mishaps as it was then.

So much have I enjoyed the Jeeves and Wooster stories (and the author's many other novels and short stories), that I've occasionally travelled to locations associated with Wodehouse.

There's something fulfilling about travel with a theme that has personal meaning. This is what I've been able to achieve so far along PG Wodehouse's timeline (click to follow links to more detail):

Next month I'll be attending Psmith in Pseattle, the latest instalment of the biennial convention hosted by the USA's Wodehouse Society.

I'm looking forward to it. Following PG Wodehouse's footsteps around the world may be an obsession, but as obsessions go it's a harmless one. Bertie Wooster would likely describe it as "loony", but I trust the ever-tactful Jeeves would let me off with a mere "eccentric".

Extricating Young Gussie is out of copyright in the USA, so you may read the entire story here.

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