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Agatha Gregson, née Wooster, later Lady Worplesdon, is a recurring fictional character in the Jeeves stories of British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse, being best known as Aunt Agatha, Bertie Wooster's least favourite aunt, and a counterpoint to her sister, Bertie's Aunt Dahlia. Fearsome and strong-willed, she is always trying to get Bertie married, though without success, thanks to Jeeves's interference. She is known as "the nephew-crusher". Bertie would avoid her if he could, but far too often finds himself bent to her indomitable will.
The original of Aunt Agatha, "the nephew-crusher", was Wodehouse's aunt Mary Bathurst Deane, his mother's older sister. In a letter dated 14 January 1955, Wodehouse wrote "Aunt Agatha is definitely my Aunt Mary, who was the scourge of my childhood." According to Richard Usborne, a leading Wodehouse scholar, "His Aunt Mary (Deane) harried and harassed him a good deal, and blossomed later into Bertie's Aunt Agatha. Aunt Mary honestly considered that her harrying and harassing of the young Pelham was for his good; and she may have been right."
Agatha had at first been affianced to Percy Craye, though upon reading in the papers of his behaviour at a Covent Garden ball, she had ended the engagement. She then married Spenser Gregson, who is her husband for most of the Wodehouse canon, though he dies in time for her to marry Craye, who had by then become Lord Worplesdon, Earl of Worplesdon, whereupon she becomes Lady Worplesdon. She has one son, Thomas Gregson, (Thos.). She is also the stepmother of Lord Worplesdon's daughter, Florence Craye.
Her pet dog McIntosh, a West Highland white terrier, was the centre of the plot of Episode of the Dog McIntosh and its TV adaptation Tuppy and the Terrier, in which Bertie almost lost it to a Broadway producer.
Aunt Agatha has been described as "the best image of the dialoguing philosopher".
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In the 1960s TV adaptation starring Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price, Aunt Agatha was played formidably by Fabia Drake. In Jeeves and Wooster, a Granada Television series based on the canon, which aired in the early 1990s, she was played by Mary Wimbush for the first three series and by Elizabeth Spriggs in the fourth.
Aunt Agatha as described by Bertie
- "My Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."
- "Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin."
- "When Aunt Agatha wants you to do a thing you do it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish Inquisition."
- "Aunt Agatha, the one who kills rats with her teeth and devours her young."
- "My Aunt Agatha who eats broken bottles and is strongly suspected of turning into a werewolf at the time of the full moon."
- "We run to height a bit in our family and there's about five-foot-nine of Aunt Agatha, topped off with a beaky nose, an eagle eye, and a lot of grey hair, and the general effect is pretty formidable."
Aunt Agatha also seems likely to have caused Bertie's expostulation that "It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof".
- Aunt Agatha Takes The Count
- Scoring off Jeeves
- Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch.
- The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace
- Jeeves and the Impending Doom
- Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit
- The Indian Summer of an Uncle
- The term "Aunt Agatha" has come to mean a "formidable aunt" or, more generally, "any older woman of fearsome disposition".
- "Aunt Agatha", or "Great Aunt Agatha", is a term sometimes used somewhat disparagingly by workers in the City of London's financial markets to describe a risk-averse, low-volume, non-corporate investor.
- "Aunt Agatha's flying helmet" is used as a raffle box for competition entries in the 'Straight and Level' humour page in Flight International, a British aviation-related trade journal.
- N. T. P. Murphy, The P. G. Wodehouse Miscellany (2015), p. 12
- Richard Usborne, Wodehouse at work to the end (1976), p. 43
- Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (1998). "'Speaking is dirty, writing is clean': the rules of dialogue". Comparative Criticism. 20: 17–32. ISSN 0144-7564.
- Manser, Martin H (2009). Dictionary of Allusions. Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-8160-7105-0.