Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The first Bertie and Jeeves book is My Man Jeeves (1919), which includes four Jeeves stories told by Bertie. The Inimitable Jeeves is thus the first book completely about these characters. In it, Wodehouse weaves eleven previously published stories together into a mostly unified narrative with the story of Bingo’s marriage to Rosie bringing many of the various elements together. The first true novel in the series is Thank You, Jeeves (1934).

The Inimitable Jeeves introduces the pattern of Bertie getting into trouble, Jeeves getting him out, and the master then having to sacrifice an article of clothing the valet finds offensive: purple socks, loud cummerbund, spats in Old Etonian colors. Some other conventional elements used include Aunt Agatha’s efforts to have Bertie wed, only for him to escape narrowly, and Sir Roderick Glossop’s conviction that Bertie is mad. Bingo and Rosie Little appear in other works, as does Honoria Glossop. One unique feature in this novel is Jeeves’s attachments to the opposite sex.

Wodehouse’s fiction grows out of the English comic tradition of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, the Restoration dramatists, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Saki. Most twentieth century literary comedians writing in English owe some debt to Wodehouse: Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Kingsley Amis, and Tom Sharpe in particular. Yet no one approaches humor exactly as Wodehouse does, and The Inimitable Jeeves is characteristic of the best of this distinctive style.