Madeline Bassett

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Madeline Bassett is a recurring character in the Jeeves stories by English comic writer P. G. Wodehouse, being one of the young women to whom Bertie Wooster periodically finds himself threateningly engaged.

Overview[edit]

Wooster describes her in Right Ho, Jeeves as "a pretty enough girl in a droopy, blonde, saucer-eyed way, but not the sort of breath-taker that takes the breath", though elsewhere he describes her as "physically in the pin-up class", with blonde hair, attractive curves, and "all the fixings". These charms must be considered in balance with her personality, which is that of the soppiest, mushiest, most childish and whimsical, sentimentalest young gawd-help-us that ever was. For example, she remarks in casual conversation, on different occasions, that she believes that "every time a fairy sheds a tear, a new star appears in the Milky Way", and that "the stars are God's daisy chain" (Bertie muses to himself that the these two comments, besides being inane drivel, are mutually contradictory; "I mean, you can't have it both ways"). Such comments would be in keeping with her general conversational style, which is all too apt to revolve around elves, gnomes, flowers, and small furry animals. This excessive soppiness is wedded to an impressive degree of self-centered idealism which she tries to impose on others, for instance by insisting that one of her fiances take up vegetarianism.

When not visiting some country house or other as the plots of the books demand, Madeline is generally to be found at Totleigh Towers where she lives with her father, the ill-tempered magistrate and collector of silver antiques Sir Watkyn Bassett, and her father's ward Stiffy Byng.

In Right Ho, Jeeves, she meets Bertie on a trip to Cannes, during which she mistakenly believes that he is in love with her and is gazing at her with long, dumb, searching looks. When he, Cyrano-like, pleads in the third person the cause of his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle, who adores Madeline but is too timid to tell her so himself, Madeline mistakes Bertie's rambling description of Gussie's feelings as a proposal on Bertie's own behalf. To his great relief, she turns him down, as she is in love with Gussie; however she assures Bertie that, if ever her engagement to Gussie were to fail, Bertie is the first person she'd look to as a replacement fiancé. Since Bertie's personal code of modern-day gentlemanly chivalry would not allow him to insult her by correcting her misunderstanding or rejecting her offer, his fear of her various engagements failing forever thereafter hangs over Bertie's head as a sort of Sword of Damocles, and plays a pivotal role in several novels. Madeline typically thinks that Bertie comes to where she is in order to masochistically indulge his hopeless, everlasting adoration, when he's actually there either for reasons having nothing to do with her, or to try to save her current relationship and thereby to prevent her from offering to marry him. At the end of Much Obliged, Jeeves she is re-engaged to Roderick Spode and may be presumed to be on her way to becoming the next Countess of Sidcup, as long as he does not make the error of renouncing his title or speaking ill of Winnie the Pooh.

Appearances[edit]

Stories[edit]

Through an unfortunate misunderstanding, Madeline comes to believe that Bertie is in love with her, but (fortunately for Bertie), she becomes engaged to his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle. When he elopes with Emerald Stoker, she renews her engagement with Bertie, before becoming affianced to Sir Roderick Spode, later 7th Earl of Sidcup.

In the ITV television series versions of the P.G. Wodehouse stories, Madeline almost marries Spode, but the attempted wedding is ruined by Tuppy Glossop's pipe clearing rust-bucket "Plumbo-Jumbo", in the series finale "The Ties That Bind".

In the third and fourth series of the ITV show Jeeves & Wooster, 1992–1993, Madeline Bassett was played by Elizabeth Heery (as Elizabeth Morton),[1] having been played in the first two series by Francesca Folan and Diana Blackburn respectively.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Elizabeth Heery". IMDb. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Books listed in 'Appearances'
  • Russian Wodehouse Society