Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wodehouse Characters

Wodehouse Characters

W-who house?

About a year ago, I received a recommendation from frequent contributor Biggest Apple/Smallest Photo that I should look into the fiction of P.G Wodehouse (pronounced, I think "woodhouse").

I am not a fan of fiction. I tend to drift towards books about history or science, or books filled with easily digestible facts and tidbits. This is actually a bit ironic, because if I were a writer, I would — without question — produce fiction. It's so much easier to write lies than truth; and telling stories about people who never existed means no one can argue that your facts are wrong. I think Garrison Keillor said this.

See — if I was a biographer, I'd have to go look that up and make my quote accurate. But instead I'll just sit back and have a sip of coffee.

Ahhhh. Beany.

Tumbling Characters

Mr. Apple kick-started my pursuit of Wodehouse literature by sending me Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, and I was instantly hooked. After reading about 6 books, and a collection of Wooster and Jeeves short stories, the characters were clamoring to get out of my head and tumble onto a piece of paper. Almost any wodehouse-ite I attempted to sketch turned out looking pretty how I imagined them, with only one or two tweaks. Although, one character has proved troublesome to capture.

Though most people have probably not heard of Wodehouse, most are certainly familiar with his creation, Jeeves the Butler Gentleman's Personal Gentleman. Jeeves is ceaselessly portrayed as having the solution to any problem, a trait which (until recently) inspired a search-engine site to wrap their entire brand around his reputation. I've seen so many interpretations of him, I'm still trying to find the version of my Jeeves that doesn't feel like I'm just reiterating other artists' characterization.

Reading is for suckers. And you. A non-sucker.

So, if you get a chance, I highly suggest picking up a Wooster and Jeeves story. I have to admit, after a few tales the story lines get a bit formulaic, but where Wodehouse really excelled was in his utterly delicious language and dialogue. Reading any of those books, it's easy to detect phrases and character-themes we're familiar with today, that originated with Wodehouse. The man sure knew his craft.

See more Wodehouse Characters in the second installment.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 28 comments.

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DD wishmore

Yeah! I'm first! I love those stories, Jeeves is awesome. and funny, that's how i've always thought aunt agatha looked too.


Your depiction of Stilton Cheesewright is spot-on... I can almost taste the condescension in that glare.


The Times columnist Giles Coren recently began a hilarious column on tomatoes, by analysing an interesting quote from Jeeves and Wooster:

"Mists, sir, and mellow fruitfulness".


DD WIshmore - Yep - she was actually the first character I committed to paper; I was pretty excited about it, too.

Steve - Thanks! He's one of the characters that I mentioned I needed to tweak once or twice. He wasn't coming off with the restrained, seething anger I wanted. Like every fiber of his being is straining to control his urge to throttle Bertie. I'm much happier with this version!

Robert - Haha - that is a pretty damn funny article... :D

Design Monkey

Good Heavens! This, of all posts, has finally pushed me from the lurking — the snail on the wing, the lark on the thorn. Or rather, the other way around with God in His heaven and all being right with the world.


wait - you mean to tell me you didn't make up the names Fink-Nottle and Cheesewright and "Tom"?

The Colonel

I'm going to go ahead and assume that you made these folks up, because after all, reading is for suckers.


What Ho, what ho, what ho!

Well, you already know how I feel on the subject of these fantastic illustrations. I would suggest that your assertion that , 'most people have probably not heard of Wodehouse' is likely off the mark. Though I suppose these things are relative I think you'd be surprised to learn just how popular Plum continues to be. At least with your more highbrow readers of Bearskinrug websites.


If testMonkey had a face, it'd look like The Colonel. If testMonkey had a soul, it'd be spot on with Florence (except the earrings would be hoops).


So when does the special edition Clue board game come out for all this, then?


Love it. I've read "Very Good, Jeeves" several times - rarely do I laugh out loud at a book, but Wodehouse has got a way with words, and the ryhthm of his stories just cooks.

Where's your interpretation of Jeeves?


I highly reccomend the British series "Jeeves and Wooster" staring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie and based on the stories ( Hugh Laurie is a PERFECT Wooster!


I think you misspelled the name of the first guy in the second row. I've always seen it as "Malcolm Gladwell."


I'm with you Jennifer. I think it's some of Hugh Laurie's best work. While perhaps not an orthodox Jeeves, Stephen Fry is in many ways Jeeves in real life. He too has a brain of ample proportions.


Stephen Fry will always be Jeeves in my mind. Here's an infringalicious clip of their first encounter.


I'd normally never steer a conversation away from Wodehouse but on the subject of Fry, if any Brit ou there has missed his show - QI, then shame on you.


Design Monkey - Welcome into the light of day! I heartily appreciate anyone who would un-lurk, since I have a tendency to lurk myself. On other sites. I am somewhat compelled to be lurk-less here.

Sutter - Naw... but they're pretty awesome. And they're even more gainly than I wrote them here. Aunt Agatha's full name would be: Lady Agatha Wooster Gregson. And she's married to Lord Worplesdon. So maybe that should be Lady Agatha Wooster Gregson Worplesdon.

Colonel - Ahhh... I WISH!

Testmonkey - Face of the Colonel and Soul of Florence Craye? Sounds like you're going to have some wardrobe issues.

Toasterhunter - Yeah! I can easily believe the Clue characters come from a Wodehousian world (albeit a darker one than he intended).

Drew - Haha - I didn't post it... see "Tumbling Characters" in the article ;)

Jennifer / BigA / Intepid - *Sigh* Well, I watched a little of it. And I liked it. But I can't bring myself to watch more, or I might push my own imagined characters out of my mind irretrievably!


uh-oh. Now you've done it. I know people who would lynch you for calling Jeeves a Butler. Jeeves is the "gentleman's personal gentleman” apparently. Now run for the hills before they get you! Run I say! Ruuuuuun!!


Haha - right - my mistake! He's a "Valet" :D


Whoops, sorry... damn this page skimming! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for Jeeves. I always saw him as older, so the Stephen Fry casting choice surprised me. I see Jeeves more as John Gielgud, who brilliantly played Dudley Moore's sardonic butler in Arthur.


Well since we're going to get into here then let's just get into it. In terms of appearance it's perhaps best to go straight to the prose of the man who created him. Plum describes Jeeves as:

Tall and dark and impressive, like one of the better class ambassadors or the youngish High Priest of some refined and delicate religion. His eyes gleam with the light of intelligence, and his finely chiseled face expresses a feudal desire to be of service. His large brain (encased in a size 14 cerebellum) and alleged diet of fish render him eminently fit. Remarkable for his quiet entrances: he doesn't seem to have any feet at all. He just streams in.

As for age, I think that's really up to your own imagination though certain clues would suggest he's not a very young or very old man. Plum once explained that the name Jeeves came from watching a cricket match before the first world war, where one of the bowlers was called Jeeves. You have to assume that it was only the name that Plum took from said bowler because that particular player would later die at the Battle of the Somme at the age of 28 on 8/4/16, the same year the first Jeeves story appeared. This would mean at the time Plum saw him play he was probably about 26 which seems an unlikely age for Bertie's gentleman's gentleman. I've always imagine him to be in his late 30's to mid 40's. The cover art of the first editions are of little help. Some early artwork portray him as being the same age as the young master while later stories show him to be older. I say he's whatever age makes those stories come to life for you.


I must say, Stilton Cheesewright looks rather angry... maybe he's been having odd dreams from eating the cheese from which he was named :O


i will CERTAINLY have to check these out... they sound right up my alley (i'm a writer, and i LOVE fiction)

and i LOVE LOVE LOVE your illustrations. i wish you could follow me around and illustrate my wild and crazy imagination... man, life would be so much more fun that way (seriously, can't get enough of these illustrations.... they're incredible!)


MattLat - Yeah. I'd be angry too if I was Munster Cornell. Or Stinking Bishop Cornell. Colby Cornell sounds all right, though. I could be on a suck-ass teen drama about my hip, hip County. Or my local tributary.

Martha - Well, there's definitely more coming. Yesterday I think I landed on an appropriate Jeeves...


I landed on an appropriate Jeeves.

At he very least I'd imagine that would induce Jeeves to raise an eyebrow.


BigA, there's nothing like going straight to the source... love the insight. No offense to Stephen Fry (loved him in Blackadder), but I feel there's a paternalistic air to Jeeves that the BBC series missed. Then again, I've always struggled to 'see' Jeeves in my mind - which is why this post and Kevin's illustrations really caught my attention. I suppose it adds to the inimitable aura of Jeeves that I couldn't quite picture him.


Very true Drew which is why he's referred to as the Inimitable Jeeves.


Generations of English tourists to India have had their nationality brought into question for their inability to catch on to a Wodehouse references. Bertie, Jeeves, and Lord Emsworth continue to be our favourite English characters second to none (And yes, that includes Princess Di. And to all of you nitpickers who're bothered about making the distinction between fact and fiction, our reply would be that Bertie was as real as Princess Di was fiction). Wodehouse continues to the best loved English writer second only to Shakespeare, and for obvious reasons we're far more fond of the Empress of Blandings than some of the other Empresses we've had!

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