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Reginald Jeeves is a fictional character in the short stories and novels of P. G. Wodehouse, being the "personal gentleman's gentleman" (valet) of Bertie Wooster (Bertram Wilberforce Wooster). Created in 1915, Jeeves would continue to appear in Wodehouse's works until his final, completed, novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen in 1974, making him Wodehouse's most famous character. The name "Jeeves" comes from Percy Jeeves, a Warwickshire cricketer killed in the First World War.[1]

Both the name "Jeeves" and the character of Jeeves have come to be thought of as the quintessential name and nature of a valet, butler, or chauffeur, inspiring many similar characters (as well as the name of the Internet search engine Ask Jeeves). A "Jeeves" is now a generic term in references such as the Oxford English Dictionary.[2]

Jeeves is a valet, not a butler—that is, he serves a man and not a household. However, Bertie Wooster has lent out Jeeves as a butler on several occasions, and notes: "If the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them."[3]

CharacterEdit

The premise of the Jeeves stories is that the brilliant valet is firmly in control of his rich and foppish young employer's life. When Bertie gets into an unwanted social obligation, legal trouble, or engagement to marry, Jeeves invariably comes up with a subtle plan to save him, often without Bertie's knowledge.

Jeeves is known for his convoluted yet precise speech and for quoting from Shakespeare and famous romantic poets. In his free time, he likes to relax with "improving" books such as the complete works of Spinoza, or to read "Dostoyevsky and the great Russians".[4] He "glides" or "shimmers" in and out of rooms and may appear or disappear suddenly and without warning. His potable concoctions, both of the alcoholic and the morning-after variety, are legendary.

Jeeves frequently displays mastery over a vast range of subjects, from philosophy (his favourite philosopher is Spinoza; he finds Nietzsche "fundamentally unsound"[5]) through an encyclopaedic knowledge of poetry, science, history, psychology, geography, politics, and literature. He is also a "bit of a whizz" in all matters pertaining to gambling, car maintenance, etiquette, and women. However, his most impressive feats are a flawless knowledge of the British aristocracy and making antidotes (especially for hangovers). His mental prowess is attributed to eating fish, according to Bertie, and the latter often offers the dish to Jeeves.

Jeeves has a distinct—and often negative—opinion of items about which Bertie is enthusiastic, such as a garish vase, an uncomplimentary painting of Wooster created by one of the many women with whom he is briefly infatuated, a moustache, monogrammed handkerchiefs, a straw boater, an alpine hat, a scarlet cummerbund, spats in the Eton colours, white dinner jacket, or purple socks. Wooster's decision to take up playing the banjolele in Thank You, Jeeves almost led to a permanent rift between the two.

Jeeves is a member of the Junior Ganymede Club, a London club for butlers and valets, in whose club book all members must record the exploits of their employers to forewarn other butlers and valets. The section labeled "WOOSTER, BERTRAM" is the largest in the book. In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit it contained "eleven pages",[6] and by Much Obliged, Jeeves it has grown to eighteen pages.[7] However, at the end of Much Obliged, Jeeves, Jeeves informs Wooster that he has destroyed the eighteen pages, anticipating that he will never leave the latter's employment.

Only once in the Wodehouse canon does Jeeves appear without Wooster: Ring for Jeeves, in which he is on loan to the 9th Earl of Rowcester while Wooster attends a school where the idle rich learn self-sufficiency in case of social upheaval. The novel was adapted from Wodehouse's play Come On, Jeeves, which he felt needed a more conventional ending; but he was unwilling to marry Wooster off.

Jeeves's first job was as a page boy at a girls' school, after which he had at least eleven other employers. Before entering the employ of Bertie Wooster, he was with Lord Worplesdon, resigning after nearly a year because of Worplesdon's eccentric choice of evening dress; Mr Digby Thistleton (later Lord Bridgnorth), who sold hair tonic; Mr Montague Todd, a financier who was in the second year of a prison term when Jeeves mentioned him to Bertie; Lord Brancaster, who gave port-soaked seedcake to his pet parrot; and Lord Frederick Ranelagh, swindled in Monte Carlo by recurring antagonist Soapy Sid. His tenure with Bertie had occasional lapses, during which he was employed elsewhere: he worked for Lord Rowcester for the length of Ring for Jeeves; Marmaduke "Chuffy" Chuffnell for a week in Thank You, Jeeves, after giving notice because of Bertie's unwillingness to give up the banjolele; J. Washburn Stoker for a short period; Gussie Fink-Nottle, who masqueraded as Bertie in The Mating Season; and Sir Watkyn Bassett as a trick to get Bertie released from prison in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves.

Richard Usborne, a leading scholar of the life and works of Wodehouse, describes Jeeves as a "godlike prime mover" and "master brain who has found to have engineered the apparent coincidence or coincidences".[8]

Jeeves's first name of Reginald was not revealed until the penultimate novel in the series, Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971), when Bertie hears a "Hullo, Reggie" greeting Jeeves. The readers may have been surprised to learn Jeeves's first name, but Bertie was stunned by the revelation "that he had a first name" in the first place.[9]

Inspiration and effect Edit

In his 1953 semi-autobiographical book written with Guy Bolton, Bring on the Girls!, Wodehouse suggests that Jeeves was based on an actual butler called Eugene Robinson that Wodehouse employed for research purposes. He recounts a story where Robinson extricated Wodehouse from a real-life predicament. Wodehouse also recounts that he named his Jeeves after Percy Jeeves (1888–1916), a then-popular English cricketer for Warwickshire. Percy Jeeves was killed at the Battle of the Somme during the attack on High Wood in July 1916, two months before the first appearance of the eponymous butler who would make his name a household word.

Jeeves's propensity for wisdom and knowledge is so well known that it inspired the original name of the Internet search website Ask.com (called "AskJeeves" from 1996 to 2006). In the twenty-first century, a "Jeeves" is a generic term (in the fashion of "a Jonah") for any useful and reliable person, found in dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary[10] or the Encarta World English Dictionary.[11] The term has even infiltrated World of Warcraft, where an engineering character may construct a "Jeeves" robot to repair equipment.[12]

FamilyEdit

Jeeves has three aunts who, he informs Wooster, are very placid in nature, in contrast to Wooster's aunts. One of Jeeves's aunts is resident in the vicinity of Maiden Eggesford and owns a cat, which features in Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. Her address is mentioned to be "Balmoral Castle, Mafeking Road". In Right Ho, Jeeves he refers to his Aunt Annie: "in times of domestic disagreement it was necessary only to invite my Aunt Annie for a visit to heal all breaches between the other members of the household. In the mutual animosity excited by Aunt Annie, those who had become estranged were reconciled almost immediately." The third aunt had varicose veins in her legs that were hideous to view, though improved to such a great extent by a patent medicine that she allowed them to be photographed for an advertisement for the product.

Jeeves also has an uncle, Charlie Silversmith, who is butler at Deverill Hall in Hampshire. Jeeves frequently writes letters to his uncle and Wooster holds Charlie in high regard. On occasion, Jeeves has been known to take the place of his uncle when circumstances necessitate his absence.Template:Citation needed

By virtue of Uncle Charlie, Jeeves has a cousin, Queenie. Queenie is engaged to a police constable named Dobbs. She is also briefly engaged, in complicated circumstances, to Catsmeat Pirbright.Template:Citation needed

In The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy, we learn he also has a niece named Mabel, who falls in love with Charles Edward "Biffy" Biffen during an ocean voyage. An old friend of Bertie's, Biffy is so absent-minded that he subsequently forgets everything but her first name and that he successfully proposed to her. Feeling she has been toyed with, Mabel breaks off the engagement, only to resume it when Jeeves intervenes and sends Bertie, Biffin, and Roderick Glossop (to whose daughter, Honoria, Biffy became betrothed after the disappearance of Mabel) to see a historical sideshow at a fair in which Mabel is appearing.Template:Citation needed

StoriesEdit

See List of Jeeves stories

Jeeves adaptationsEdit

By chronological order on the first item of each sub-section:

FilmsEdit

There have been a few theatrical films based upon or inspired by Wodehouse's novels:-

  • Thank You, Jeeves! (1935)—Arthur Treacher as Jeeves, and David Niven as Bertie, meet a girl and help her brother stop two spies trying to get his secret plans. The film has almost nothing to do with the book of that title. Although Treacher looks the part, the script calls on him to play the character as unhelpful and rather unpleasant, with none of the trademark brilliance of the literary Jeeves.
  • Step Lively, Jeeves! (1936)—Arthur Treacher as Jeeves is conned by two swindlers who claim he has a fortune waiting for him in America, where Jeeves meets some gangsters. Bertie does not appear, Jeeves is portrayed as a naive bumbler, and the film has nothing to do with any Wodehouse story.
  • By Jeeves (2001)—A recorded performance of the musical, released as a video (with UK Martin Jarvis as Jeeves, and U.S. John Scherer as Bertie). It was also aired on TV.

PlaysEdit

  • Come On, Jeeves (opened 1954, still played from time to time Template:As of under its name or as Ring for Jeeves)—A 1952 play by Guy Bolton and Wodehouse (adapted into the 1953 novel Ring for Jeeves), opened 1954 in Worthing, England (cast unknown), published in 1956.

TelevisionEdit

MusicalsEdit

  • Jeeves (22 April 1975 to 24 May 1975, 38 performances)—An unsuccessful musical loosely based on Wodehouse, opened in London (with Michael Aldridge as Jeeves, and David Hemmings as Bertie). Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics & Book by Alan Ayckbourn and based on the Wodehouse book: "Code of The Woosters."
  • By Jeeves (1 May 1996 to 12 February 1997; 28 October 2001 to 30 December 2001, 73 performances)—A more successful complete rewrite of the earlier version, opened in London (with Malcolm Sinclair as Jeeves, and Steven Pacey as Bertie), and premiered in the U.S. in November 1996 (with Richard Kline as Jeeves, and John Scherer as Bertie). It was produced again in 2001 on Broadway (with Martin Jarvis as Jeeves, and Scherer as Bertie), with one recorded performance released as a video film and aired on TV.

RadioEdit

ComicsEdit

BiographyEdit

A fictional biography of Jeeves, entitled Jeeves: A Gentleman's Personal Gentleman by Northcote Parkinson, fills in a great deal of background information about him.

Also, both Jeeves and Bertie Wooster make cameo appearances in Spider Robinson's Lady Slings the Booze.

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://content.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/current/story/390277.html
  2. http://oed.com/
  3. Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, 1963
  4. « "My personal tastes lie more in the direction of Dostoyevsky and the great Russians." » (Jeeves, in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, chapter four.)
  5. Jeeves Takes Charge, 1916
  6. In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, chapter four.
  7. "'[...] As a rule, a few lines suffice. Your eighteen pages are quite exceptional.'
    'Eighteen? I thought it was eleven.'
    'You are omitting to take into your calculations the report of your misadventures at Totleigh Towers [...]'."
    —Jeeves and Bertie, in Much Obliged, Jeeves, chapter one.
  8. Wodehouse at Work to the End, Richard Usborne 1976.
  9. "'Hullo, 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." (Bertie about Bingley greeting Jeeves, in Much Obliged, Jeeves, chapter four.)
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. Template:Cite encyclopedia
  12. http://www.wowwiki.com/Jeeves
  13. Template:Cite web

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