The most recent evidence of the complete hold Jeeves and Wooster have taken on our life is the long conversation we recently had about who we’d rather be: Jeeves or Wooster. Careful consideration was given to how smart Jeeves is, and how Bertie Wooster’s head is frequently referred to as a “lemon.” Still, it IS Bertie’s fabulous car, after all, and he does get to eat a lot of awfully good food when he’s at his Aunt Delia’s, and he doesn’t seem to ever have to work. Plus, Wooster appears to be kind of rich, although it is not at all clear how he got that way. Three votes for Wooster. I vote for Jeeves, because he has such an objective way of looking at the antics and silliness of Bertie Wooster and his friends. I would so like to be that objective.
But the truth is, we love them both. We love Jeeves because he does not say everything he thinks, but manages to express great truths with a raised eyebrow (if you are watching Stephen Fry in the great television adaptation) or in a “Very good, sir” (if you are reading the books). Bertie is our beloved because, although thick as a board, he is sweet, and generous, and never seems to get really put out when people tell him he’s an idiot. He knows who he is, except when he decides to solve a problem without Jeeves’s help. They are perfect together, these two.
And so, every night we eat our dinner in front of the really big television I bought at Christmas time. We all dance around to the introductory jazzy music. William has developed his own little hand waving, toe tapping expository dance thing to this wonderful music. The episodes are long — at least 45 minutes — and deeply, deeply satisfying. Things go wrong, and then things go right. Cue the jazzy music.
I didn’t actually look this up, so I’m not sure I’m right, but I’m going to guess that these stories, many of which were written after the Great War, offered solace and escape to people whose faith in an ordered world had collapsed. For us, in the week after the event at Virginia Tech, Jeeves and Wooster have done something similar. This is one of the things art does, I suppose. It delights us, offers us solace and order — and sometimes, under its influence, people will bring you a cup of tea in bed in the morning, and listen to you sympathetically when you’re having trouble with your aunt or the chorus girl you’ve falled in love with. We cannot hire Jeeves, having no evening clothes to speak of for him to care for, but we can BE him a little bit, I think, and Bertie too — kinder, more generous, in the case of Bertie, and more sensible and rational, in the case of Jeeves.
This morning, someone brought me a cup of tea in bed. They did not glide in noiselessly, and they slopped the tea around a little bit, but it nevertheless worked its magic on me. I’m up and about, and off to figure out how to finish my story. Maybe I’ll introduce a Jeeves-like character, and let him do the work. But in the end, what matters most is that in the house where Jeeves lives, kindness and cups of tea reign. I hope your house is like that this weekend.