The familiar refrain comes with an unexpected twist in this tenth episode of the series : one of the principals is missing, Bertie Wooster having been sent back to school and his place in the soup given to William Billiken Egerton Bamfylde Ossingham Belfry, the ninth Earl of Rowcester. The particular trouble alluded to in my opening quote is also somehow familiar : romance is on the menu at Rowcester Abbey in Southmoltonshire, where young mlord Billiken is engaged to be married to nice girl Jill Wyvern, daughter of the local Chief Constable. The soup is brought to boiling point by the arrival at Rowcester Abbey of a couple of foreign visitors : the wealthy American widow Mrs. Rosalinda Bessemer Spottsworth and the famous white hunter Captain Cuthbert Gervase Brabazon-Biggar, of the United Rowers Club, Nortumberland Avenue. With lovers Bill and Jill cast in traditional roles, the surprises and the colourful touches here are delegated to the two outsiders : Rosie Spottsworth and Captain Biggar, with occasional supporting acts from the earls sister Moke and her husband Sir Roderick. Rosie, with her fortune inherited from two timely dead husbands, could provide financial relief if she can be persuaded to buy the derelict mansion, but she seems more interested in chasing ghosts and trying to persuade the big white hunter to propose to her. Im not entirely sure if Wodehouse is lampooning or regretting the passing of an age of Imperial magnificence here, but it is worth mentioning that the current episode stands apart from other books in the series not only throught he absence of the first person narration by Bertie Wooster, but also by being unusually anchored in current Post-War social developments. as Captain Biggar likes to say, but this social revolution has reached even the Elysian Fields of Wodehouse romances, well known until now for being completely detached from real world events. Each clever solution that mlord Rowcester and white hunter Biggar deploy in their search for easy money only serves to drive them deeper into the soup, until only one man is left standing resolute and confident in a happy conclusion to the whole unfortunate Whistlers Mother affair.
Clearly I had read Ring For Jeeves before, then equally clearly I had blocked the whole experience from my mind. Based on a stage show (also written by Wodehouse), the book feels horribly like the prose adaptation of a stage show. Written in 1952/1953, and set in the 1950s, this is Wodehouse dealing with post-War Britain. It really seems as if Wodehouse is saying that Malaysia, and other such places, would be in a far better state without these particular blots on the landscape. But then I suppose Jeeves, much like Wodehouse himself, would really just like to be back in The Twenties where things were so much simpler.
For starters Jeeves in the service of Bill Rowcester while Bertie is away in preparatory school for life in world of declining aristocracy. Bill's sister Moke (and with no help from her husband Rory) has arranged for the Rowcester Mansion to be sold to a rich ex lover of Bill who believes in spirits and, for some odd reason, tribal hunters of the east.
Enters, Rosie aka Mrs. Pottsworth, the rich lady who amassed wealth of her dead husbands, and Captain Bigger, the hunter of large wild animals, who is secretly in love with her.
Jeeves has no compulsion here and readily breaks the law here. A pretty decent P G Wodehouse novel but a very poor Jeeves and Wooster book.
somehow jeeves comes off as dull in this book and his propensity to find the perfect aphorism for every situation seems unappreciated by the characters, and even the author himself.
I'd have to rank this as my least favorite Jeeves & Wooster book. Probably because there's no Wooster in it.
He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934) and frequently collaborated with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton.