It is difficult to imagine Jeeves without Bertie and one would be within rights to wonder what would be results of such an adventure. Well Wodehouse is a master plotter and the madness in ‘Ring For Jeeves’ is indeed a corker.
In a series of incidents that shout ‘doomsday’ and demand instant remedial action, Jeeves is never to be found wanting. He employs his known techniques including knowing the psychology of the individual to good effect.
The setting is indeed important – we are in modern-day England wherein the social revolution has taken toll of the aristocracy. The Lilies of the field, so it were, are found to seek employment in a variety of settings including Departmental stores. Bertie Wooster, though still a very rich and silly man, decides to improve his job skills and enrols for a course that includes boot-cleaning, sock-darning, bed-making and primary grade cooking. Since self-reliance is the motto, Bertie is forced to part the company of his man-Friday, Jeeves. To ensure Jeeves remains in action and is gainfully employed, he decides to take up a temporary assignment with Bertie’s pal, Bill.
The scene moves to Rowcester Abbey wherein Bill has taken the added role of being Lord Rowcester. Aristocracy is in ruins though and without many options to be in lucrative employment, the Lord decides to act on Jeeves’ advice and decides to become a Bookie at the local race course. A suitable disguise is employed along with the impressive alias, ‘Honest Patch Perkins’. The initial results are encouraging and significantly improve Bill’s lifestyle.
Romance is in the air and couples are on the move. Rory and Monica (Bill’s sister) drop in as Monica has come up with a plan to improve Bill’s fortune. She has found a young widow, Mrs. Spottsworth, from the United States of America who could be interested in coughing up thousands of pounds to buy the villa. Mrs. Spottsworth, a rich heiress now, turns out to be Rosie who had shared a past with Bill in the past when they went bathing in the night at Eden Roc on the French Riviera. This is an unwanted complication since Bill is happily engaged to the vivacious vet Jill Wyvern who has grand plans to raise capital and organize a farm to ensure a peaceful pastoral life for the couple.
Things turn thick when the action hots up with appearance of big game hunter, Captain Biggar. Apart from inspiring Rory to crack a series of jokes on the ‘bigger-biggar’ theme, he is the ultimate personification of the Raj and the men who went to East to carry the ‘white man’s burden’ and developed a code of conduct to resist the temptations of the wild. So Captain Biggar is bonkers about Rosie but cannot propose as he is a penniless adventurer and cannot stick to being named a ‘Gold digger’.
Wodehouse does a great job, as usual, in delineating the personality of his stock characters and setting up mini-shocks all the way. Reminds me of the hurdle race at school – winning is a long way off and the mind is occupied in jumping the next barrier. Well Jeeves does it all in masterly manner and the bacon flies home. Ones intelligence is not insulted but there is a credible anticlimax on so many points.
At the climax things are in the mud due to the following – Rosie won’t but the house that is damp (And the Rowcester Abbey is damp by bucketfuls – there is a nice crack about the river being at the bottom of the garden in the summers whereas the garden is at the bottom of the river in the winters), Captain Biggar has been accused of stealing a pendant, hocking it to back a large bet on the horse that eventually loses the game by the inch and even Jeeves does not quite seem to have any recipe to set things right.
The answers to the puzzle are quite incredible though – Captain Biggar has what is called the remorse of the heart so he doesn’t execute his plans and wins redemption and marriage in return. Jeeves gives an amusing solution to the dampness – just dismantle the mansion and assemble it all over again the sunny climes of the United States of America.
So it is yet again an ‘all-is-well-that-ends-well’ story. And just in the nick of time as well since Bertie has been expelled from his school of learning – he was caught cheating on a ‘darning-the-sock’ assignment and looks forwarded longingly to resume relations with our inimitable ‘Gentleman’s Gentleman’, Jeeves.