Aunts Aren't Gentlemen
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Publisher||Barrie & Jenkins|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ3.W817 Au PR6045.O53|
|Preceded by||Much Obliged, Jeeves|
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen is a comic novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published in the United Kingdom in October 1974 by Barrie & Jenkins, London, and in the United States under the title The Cat-nappers on 14 April 1975 by Simon & Schuster, New York. It was the last novel to feature some of Wodehouse's best known characters, Bertie Wooster and his resourceful valet Jeeves, and the last novel fully completed by Wodehouse before his death.
Taking place at a rural town called Maiden Eggesford, the story involves a plan by Bertie's Aunt Dahlia to kidnap a cat so that she can win a wager. The novel also chronicles the relationship between Bertie's acquaintances Orlo Porter and Vanessa Cook, and features Major Plank, whom Bertie first met in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves.
Concerned by pink spots on his chest, Bertie goes to see E. Jimpson Murgatroyd, the Harley Street doctor recommended by his friend Tipton Plimsoll (who himself saw Murgatroyd for spots in Full Moon). On the way, Bertie sees Vanessa Cook, a headstrong girl he once proposed to but no longer wants to marry, leading a protest march. She is with her fiancé Orlo J. Porter, an acquaintance of Bertie's. Orlo and Vanessa are unable to marry because Vanessa's father, the trustee of Orlo's inheritance, refuses to give Orlo his inheritance because Orlo is a communist.
Bertie finds Major Plank (who was told that Bertie is a thief called Alpine Joe in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves) in the doctor's waiting room, though Plank does not recognize Bertie. Murgatroyd tells Bertie that the spots will go away, but recommends that Bertie get fresh air and exercise in the country. Bertie's Aunt Dahlia is going to Eggesford Hall, the home of her friend Colonel James Briscoe in the town of Maiden Eggesford in Somerset, near the seaside resort of Bridmouth-on-Sea, and gets a cottage called Wee Nooke for Bertie there. Jeeves is disappointed that they must cancel their upcoming trip to New York, but has the consolation that he will see his aunt in Maiden Eggesford.
At Maiden Eggesford, Bertie walks to Eggesford Hall, but goes to Eggesford Court, the home of Vanessa's father Mr. Cook, by mistake. Seeing a black cat with white fur on its chest and nose, Bertie pets it and moves to hold it. Cook sees this and thinks Bertie is stealing the cat. After he threatens Bertie with a hunting crop, Plank, who is Cook's guest, advises Bertie to leave, which he hastily does. Jeeves informs Bertie that Cook's horse Potato Chip and Briscoe's horse Simla will soon compete in a race at Bridmouth-on-Sea, and to perform well, Potato Chip must be near this stray cat that it recently befriended.
Vanessa urges Orlo to demand his inheritance from Cook. When Orlo refuses, she ends the engagement and decides she will marry Bertie. Bertie doesn't want to marry her, but is too polite to turn her down.
Aunt Dahlia has bet on Simla's victory in the race, and arranged for poacher Herbert "Billy" Graham (a reference to evangelist Billy Graham) to kidnap the cat to sabotage Potato Chip. Graham brings the cat to Bertie's cottage, but Bertie pays Graham to return the cat to avoid trouble.
After suggesting that Orlo approach Cook about his inheritance after Cook is mellowed by a good dinner, Jeeves goes to visit his aunt, Mrs. Pigott. Plank remembers that Bertie is Alpine Joe, and he and Cook suspect Bertie of stealing the cat. Graham fails to return the cat, so Bertie tries to return it himself. Carrying the cat up to Eggesford Court, Bertie trips and loses it. The cat ultimately goes back to Bertie's cottage.
Orlo is unable to convince Cook to give him his inheritance, yet Vanessa is happy that Orlo confronted her father anyway, and they elope. At his cottage, Bertie is accosted by Cook and Plank, who believe that Vanessa wants to marry Bertie. Bertie hands over a letter from Orlo proving that Orlo and Vanessa eloped. Cook is apologetic to Bertie, until the cat wanders in.
Thinking Bertie stole the cat, Cook and Plank tie him up. Cook brings the cat back to Potato Chip while Plank leaves to fetch the police. Jeeves appears and unties Bertie. Plank returns and initially thinks Jeeves is a policeman called Inspector Witherspoon (from Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves), but Jeeves denies this. Pretending to be Bertie's solicitor, Jeeves convinces Plank that he is mistaken about Bertie, since Bertie, having ample wealth, has no reason to be a thief like Alpine Joe.
Jeeves realized that the stray cat actually belongs to his aunt. Bertie and Jeeves make a deal with Cook to lend him the cat until the race is over and not press charges for tying Bertie up, in exchange for Cook paying Mrs. Pigott a fee and giving Orlo his inheritance.
Bertie and Jeeves go to New York, which Bertie finds much calmer and quieter than Maiden Eggesford. In a letter, Aunt Dahlia's husband Tom Travers writes that the race was awarded to Briscoe's Simla after Cook's cat ran across the racecourse and startled Simla. Bertie is pleased for his aunt. However, he attributes the tranquility of his and Jeeves's stay in New York to their distance from aunts, particularly Aunt Dahlia, who, though genial, has a lax moral code. The trouble with aunts, Bertie tells Jeeves, is that they are not gentlemen.
The Briscoe family and the town of Maiden Eggesford that feature in this novel had appeared previously in the Drones Club short story "Tried in the Furnace" (1935). One difference between these appearances is that Angelica Briscoe, who is the daughter of Colonel Briscoe and the niece of a parson in Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, was originally the parson's daughter in "Tried in the Furnace".
This story was not adapted for any Jeeves and Wooster episode.
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen was adapted for radio for the BBC Radio 4 series Book at Bedtime, first airing in five fifteen-minute episodes from 16 December 2013 to 20 December 2013. The story was abridged by Richard Hamilton and the voices were provided by Blake Ritson.
- Wodehouse, P. G. (2008) . Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (Reprinted ed.). Arrow Books. ISBN 978-0099513971.
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with a list of characters
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