is a fictional character
in the short stories
and novels of P. G.
, being the "gentleman's
personal gentleman" (valet
) of Bertie Wooster
(Bertram Wilberforce Wooster).
Created in 1915
and named in the title of most
of his stories since 1916
and most of his books
is Wodehouse's most famous character. The name "Jeeves" comes from
, a Warwickshire cricketer
killed in the First World War. Both the name "Jeeves" and the
character of Jeeves have come to be thought of as the
quintessential name and nature of a valet
, 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
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."
The concept of the Jeeves stories is that the brilliant valet is
firmly in control of his rich and foppish
young employer's life. Much of the comic effect derives from the
fact that the clueless Bertie Wooster, who narrates most stories,
is for the most part blissfully unaware of how he is being
manipulated. When Bertie gets into an unwanted social obligation
, legal trouble, or
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
famous romantic poets
. In his free time,
he likes to relax with "improving" books such as the complete works
, or to read "Dostoyevsky
and the great Russians". 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
Jeeves frequently displays mastery over a vast range of subjects,
from philosophy (his favourite philosopher is Spinoza
; he finds Nietzsche
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.
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
white dinner jacket, or purple socks.
Wooster's decision to
take up playing the banjolele
Thank You, Jeeves
led to a permanent rift between the two.
Jeeves is a member of the Junior
, 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
it contained "eleven pages", and by Much Obliged, Jeeves
it has grown
to eighteen pages. However, at the end of Much Obliged,
, Jeeves informs Wooster that he has destroyed the
eighteen pages, anticipating that he will never leave the latter's
employment; Wooster's answer provides the book with its name.
in the Wodehouse canon does Jeeves appear without Wooster:
Ring for Jeeves, in which
he is on loan to the 9th Earl of Towcester while Wooster attends a school where the idle rich
learn self-sufficiency in case of social upheaval.
was adapted from Wodehouse's play Come On, Jeeves
he felt needed a more conventional ending, but was unwilling to
marry Wooster off.
Jeeves's first job was as a page boy
girls' school, after which he had at least eleven other employers.
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
Carlo by recurring antagonist Soapy Sid.
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 due to Bertie's unwillingness to quit playing
; J. Washburn Stoker for a
short period; Gussie Fink-Nottle
who masqueraded as Bertie in The Mating Season
; and Sir
as a trick to get
Bertie released from prison in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
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.
The sagacious servant in the Jeeves model has become a modern
archetype which probably inspired most later similar characters,
from Dorothy L. Sayers
's 1923 manservant Mervyn Bunter
, to Batman
's 1943 butler Alfred
, to Wodehouse fan Isaac Asimov
's 1971 waiter Henry of the
club, to Joseph Marcell
's Geoffrey of the Banks
residence on the Fresh
Prince of Bel-Air
Jeeves's propensity for wisdom and knowledge is so well known that
it inspired the original name of the Internet search website
(called AskJeeves from 1996 to
2006). In the twenty-first century, a "Jeeves
" is a generic term (in the fashion of "a
") for any useful and reliable
person, found in dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary
Encarta World English
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
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.
By virtue of Uncle Charlie, Jeeves has a cousin, Queenie. Queenie
is engaged to a police constable named Dobbs. She is also briefly
engaged to Catsmeat Pirbright, due to the complications of wheels
A niece named Mabel rounds off Jeeves' nearest and dearest. She
falls in love with "Biffy" Biffen, who is so absent-minded that he
subsequently forgets everything but her first name and that he
successfully proposed to her. She breaks off the engagement, only
to resume it when Jeeves intervenes and sends Bertie, Biffin and
Roderick Glossop (whose daughter, Honoria, Biffy became betrothed
to after the disappearance of Mabel) to see the historical show in
which Mabel is appearing.
Wodehouse's work is often divided according to certain recurring
characters and settings; the stories and novels about Bertie and
Jeeves are often called "the Jeeves canon" or simply "the Jeeves
The concept which eventually became Jeeves actually preceded Bertie
in Wodehouse's mind: he had long considered the idea of a butler —
later a valet — who could solve any problem. A character named
, who was in all respects
very much like Bertie but without Jeeves, was the protagonist of
seven short stories; Wodehouse soon decided to rewrite the Pepper
stories, switching Reggie's character to Bertie Wooster and
combining him with an ingenious valet.
In his 1953 semi-autobiographical book with Guy Bolton Bring on the Girls!
suggests that Jeeves was based on an actual butler called Eugene
Robinson that he employed for the purpose of study, and recounts a
story where Robinson extricated Wodehouse from a real-life
predicament; he also says 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
The Jeeves and Wooster canon was written between 1915 and 1974, and
includes Wodehouse's last completed novel, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen
narrates all the stories but two, "Bertie Changes His Mind" (which
Jeeves himself narrates), and Ring
(which features Jeeves but not Bertie and is
written in the third person). The stories are set in three primary
locations: London, where
Bertie has a flat and is a member of the raucous Drones Club; various stately homes in the
English countryside, most commonly Totleigh Towers or Brinkley Court; or New York
City and a few other locations in the United States. All take place in a timeless world based on
an idealized vision of England before
World War II.
Only Ring for Jeeves
mentions World War
Jeeves and Bertie first appeared in "Extricating Young Gussie
", a short
story published in September 1915, in which Jeeves's character is
minor and not fully developed and Bertie's surname appears to be
Mannering-Phipps. The first fully recognizable Jeeves and Bertie
story was "The Artistic
Career of Corky
", published in early 1916. In the later
stories, Jeeves assumed the role of Bertie's co-protagonist;
indeed, their meeting was told in November 1916 in "Jeeves Takes Charge
". In recent years,
they have come to be called a comic duo.
The Jeeves canon consists of 35 short stories and 11 novels. Most
of the Jeeves stories were originally published as magazine pieces
before being collected into books, although 11 of the short stories
were reworked and divided into 18 chapters of a semi-novel called
The Inimitable Jeeves
. Other collections, most notably
"The World of Jeeves," restore these to their original form of 11
- The Man With Two Left
Feet (1917) — One story in a book of thirteen
- (My Man Jeeves (1919) —
Four stories in a book of eight, all four reprinted in Carry
on, Jeeves. The non-Jeeves stories feature Reggie Pepper.)
- ("Leave It to Jeeves", was reprinted in Carry on,
Jeeves as "The Artistic Career of Corky"), originally
- ("Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest", was reprinted in Carry
on, Jeeves), originally published 1916.
- ("Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg", was reprinted in Carry
on, Jeeves), originally published 1917.
- ("The Aunt and the Sluggard", was reprinted in Carry on,
Jeeves), originally published 1916.
- The Inimitable
Jeeves (1923) — Originally a semi-novel with eighteen
chapters, it is normally published as eleven short stories:
- "Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum" with "No Wedding Bells for
Bingo" (together "Jeeves in the
Springtime", originally published 1921)
- "Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind" with "Pearls Mean Tears"
(together "Aunt Agatha Takes the Count", originally published
- "The Pride of the Woosters Is Wounded" with "The Hero's Reward"
(together "Scoring Off Jeeves", originally published 1922.)
- "Introducing Claude and Eustace" with "Sir Roderick Comes to
Lunch" (together "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch", originally
- "A Letter of Introduction" with "Startling Dressiness of a Lift
Attendant" (together "Jeeves and the Chump Cyril", originally
- "Comrade Bingo" with "Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood" (together
"Comrade Bingo", originally published
- "The Great Sermon Handicap", originally published 1922.
- "The Purity of the Turf", originally published 1922.
- "The Metropolitan Touch", originally published 1922.
- "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace", originally published
- "Bingo and the Little Woman" with "All's Well" (together "Bingo
and the Little Woman", originally published 1922.)
- Carry on, Jeeves
(1925) — Ten stories:
- "Jeeves Takes Charge" –
Recounts the first meeting of Jeeves and Bertie, originally
- "The Artistic Career of Corky", a rewrite of "Leave It to
Jeeves", originally published in My Man Jeeves
- "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest", originally published in My
- "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg", originally published in
My Man Jeeves
- "The Aunt and the Sluggard", originally published in My Man
- "The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy", originally published
- "Without the Option", originally published 1925.
- "Fixing It for Freddie", a rewrite of a Reggie Pepper story,
"Helping Freddie", originally published in My Man
- "Clustering Round Young Bingo"
- "Bertie Changes His Mind" — The only story in the canon
narrated by Jeeves, originally published 1922.
- Very Good, Jeeves
(1930) — Eleven stories:
- "Jeeves and the Impending Doom", originally published
- "The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy", originally published
- "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit" (US title: Jeeves and the
Yuletide Spirit), originally published 1927.
- "Jeeves and the Song of Songs", originally published 1929.
- "Episode of the Dog McIntosh" (US title: Jeeves and the Dog
McIntosh), originally published 1929.
- "The Spot of Art" (US title: Jeeves and the Spot of
Art), originally published 1929.
- "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina", originally published
- "The Love That Purifies" (US title: Jeeves and the Love
That Purifies), originally published 1929.
- "Jeeves and the Old School Chum", originally published
- "The Indian Summer of an Uncle", originally published
- "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy" (US title: Tuppy Changes His
Mind), originally published 1930.
- Thank You, Jeeves
(1934) — The first full-length Jeeves novel
- Right Ho, Jeeves
(1934) (US title: Brinkley Manor)
- The Code of the
- Joy in the
Morning (1946) (US title: Jeeves in the
- The Mating
- (Come On, Jeeves — 1952 play with Guy Bolton, adapted 1953 into Ring for
Jeeves, produced 1954, published 1956)
- Ring for Jeeves (1953)
— Only novel without Bertie (US title: The Return of
Jeeves), adapting the play Come On, Jeeves
- Jeeves and the
Feudal Spirit (1954) (US title: Bertie Wooster Sees It
- A Few Quick Ones
(1959) — One short story in a book of ten
- "Jeeves Makes an Omelette", a rewrite of a Reggie Pepper story
originally published in My Man Jeeves
- Jeeves in the
Offing (1960) (US title: How Right You Are,
- Stiff Upper Lip,
- Plum Pie (1966) — One short
story in a book of nine
- "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird"
- Much Obliged,
Jeeves (1971) (US title: Jeeves and the Tie That
- Aunts Aren't
Gentlemen (1974) (US title: The Cat-nappers)
By chronological order on the first item of each sub-section:
There have been a few theatrical films based upon or inspired by
- 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.
- Come On, Jeeves (opened 1954, still
played from time to time 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.
- 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).
- 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.
A fictional biography of Jeeves, entitled Jeeves: A Gentleman's
by Northcote Parkinson, fills in a great
deal of background information about him.
- Main primary sources
All Jeeves books are relevant, but many key points are sourced
from: Carry on, Jeeves
(1925, first meeting, poaching Anatole); Ring for Jeeves
(1953, butler, WW2);
Jeeves and the Feudal
(1954, great Russians, eleven pages section);
Much Obliged, Jeeves
(1971, eighteen pages section, Reginald).
- Secondary sources
- – Mock biography of Jeeves.
- TV adaptations