Ring for Jeeves
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|22 April 1953|
Ring for Jeeves is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom on 22 April 1953 by Herbert Jenkins, London and in the United States on 15 April 1954 by Simon & Schuster, New York, under the title The Return of Jeeves.
The novel features one of Wodehouse's best-known characters, Jeeves. It is the only Jeeves novel in which his employer, Bertie Wooster, does not appear (though he is mentioned). Wodehouse adapted the story from a play, Come On, Jeeves, that he had written with his lifelong friend and collaborator Guy Bolton.
Differences between editions
Although the story remains the same, there are some differences between the UK and US editions. Structurally, the sequence of early chapters is different: what is the opening chapter of the UK edition becomes chapter 5 in the US edition, with other chapters being re-arranged accordingly. And while the US edition retains the name Towcester from the play which preceded the novel, this becomes Rowcester in the UK edition. Additionally, Sir Roderick Carmoyle's employer, Harrods, is replaced with the fictional department store Harrige's in the UK edition.
The story opens with Jeeves's employer, Bertie Wooster, having enrolled in a school that teaches the idle rich how to fend for themselves. In his absence he has allowed Jeeves to offer his services to William "Bill" Rowcester, the impoverished 9th Earl of Rowcester, whose stately home, Rowcester Abbey, is an encumbrance for which the Earl is seeking a buyer. Jeeves becomes embroiled in a complicated affair involving 'fake' bookies, stolen gems, a wealthy American widow and a big game hunter, but, as in all Jeeves novels, the imperturbable valet succeeds in resolving matters to the satisfaction of all parties.
Unlike most Jeeves and Wooster stories, which only occasionally refer to events in the real world, Ring for Jeeves is explicitly set in post-World War II England, where social changes have forced some of those who were formerly members of the idle rich to dispense with their servants and seek employment. Although Bertie Wooster has not yet been reduced to such measures, he has enrolled, prior to the start of the story, in a school that teaches the upper classes how to fend for themselves. In his absence, Jeeves has offered his services to William Egerton Bamfylde Ossingham Belfry, the Earl of Rowcester, who is in poor fortune.
The story (in the UK edition) opens with a chance encounter in a pub between the wealthy widow Rosalinda Spottsworth and the white hunter Captain Biggar. The two had met previously on a hunting expedition when Mr Spottsworth was killed. Mrs Spottsworth is on her way to meet the Earl of Rowcester at the invitation of his sister Lady Monica, with the intention of buying Rowcester Abbey. Captain Biggar is in pursuit of a dishonest bookie – he had placed a £5 bet on two horses at high odds and won £3,000, only to discover that the bookie had absconded.
At Rowcester Abbey, Monica has arrived with her husband Sir Roderick to assist in the sale of the Abbey, and they are both surprised to find that the Earl is in better fortunes than they had last heard and now able even to afford servants. They are further surprised when they receive two phone calls; the first an anonymous inquiry regarding the Earl's car licence plate number, and the second from the police.
When the Earl arrives (in his bookie disguise) he laments having ignored Jeeves' advice to lay off Captain Biggar's bet, and is shocked to find his sister and brother-in-law have come to visit. When told of the plan to sell, he is overjoyed, but thrown when it turns out that he had previously romanced Mrs Spottsworth (under her previous married name), and further thrown when Captain Biggar arrives and is invited to stay.
After initial threats from Captain Biggar, he, the Earl and Jeeves hatch a plan to steal a pendant belonging to Mrs Spottsworth, intending to pawn it, and to place the proceeds on an outsider bet at the Derby; Captain Biggar requires the money to feel worthy of proposing to Mrs Spottsworth, bound by a code which frowns on gold digging.
Though initial attempts to acquire the pendant serve only to alienate the Earl's fiancée, Jill Wyvern, and the sale of the house, which would have yielded deposit enough to recompense the Captain, are thwarted by the tactlessness of Sir Roderick; Jeeves comes up with a successful plan, which exploits Mrs Spottsworth's fascination in the supernatural.
On the day of the Derby the theft of the pendant is discovered and the police called. Jill's father, the Chief Constable, having heard of Jill's suspicions goes to the Abbey intending to horse whip the Earl. Although still angry, Jill warns Jeeves who in turn explains to her the goings-on she had misinterpreted as an affair. The Captain is suspected of the theft because of his absence, and hopes are dashed when the Captain's racing tip comes second in a photo finish. But everything turns out for the best after the Captain returns, having failed to pawn the pendant. He professes his love and explains his code, which Mrs Spottsworth laughs off with the news that one of his friends, to whom he felt bound under this code, had married a richer woman.
Jeeves steps in while announcing the engagement, with the suggestion that Mrs Spottsworth ship the house, brick by brick, to America and in doing so secures the sale. The tale ends with Jeeves handing in his notice, as Bertie Wooster has been expelled from the school for cheating.
- William 'Bill' Rowcester (pseudonym Honest Patch Perkins), 9th Earl of Rowcester.
- Jeeves, temporarily employed as the Earl's butler.
- Sir Roderick 'Rory' Carmoyle, brother-in-law to Bill.
- Monica 'Moke' Carmoyle, sister of Bill and wife of Rory.
- Jill Wyvern, betrothed to Bill.
- Chief Constable Wyvern, Jill's father.
- Cuthbert Gervase 'Bwana' Brabazon-Biggar, who has been cheated of a substantial amount of money by Honest Patch Perkins.
- Rosalinda 'Rosie' Spottsworth, who is an old friend of Bill and is planning to buy his house.
- Pomona, Rosie's dog.
- McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 87–88. ISBN 087008125X
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with a list of characters