Proto Bertie

November 6, 2011

I have decided how I want to die. If it please The Almighty, I would like to be taken by a massive coronary while reading P.G.Wodehouse.

I have written before of the delights of P.G.W. Hope I’m not boring you. Doing a bit of book shuffling, I rediscovered one of my favourites : The Man Upstairs. My copy is a Penguin from 1958, but it was first published in 1914, before Bertie and Jeeves, before Psmith, and before Ukridge. The stories are not about the upper classes. Its nearly all bank clerks and hairdressers falling in love. Except for one : “Ahead of Schedule”. This appears to be a dry run for Bertie and Jeeves, featuring a calm valet and a dim but nice rich chap called Rollo Finch. (“Rollo Finch – in the present unsatisfactory state of the law parents may still christen a child Rollo – was a youth to whom Nature had given a cheery disposition not marred by any superfluity of brain.”). The valet Wilson is not the superhuman Jeeves, but Rollo Finch’s verbal style is 100% Bertie.

I had thought that the precursors to the the Bertie and Jeeves stories were the Reggie Pepper stories, as explained in this wikipedia article . The earliest of these was published in The Strand magazine in March 1911. “Ahead of Schedule” however was published in “The Grand” in November 1910.

I expect this is all obvious to proper Wodehouse fans but it took me by surprise. Anyway its dead funny, so do give it a read.