Reggie Pepper

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Reggie Pepper
Reggie Pepper character
First appearance "Absent Treatment" (1911)
Last appearance "The Test Case" (1915)
Created by P. G. Wodehouse
Portrayed by Lawrence Grossmith
Information
Full name Reginald Pepper
Nickname(s) Reggie
Gender Male
Nationality British

Reginald Pepper, known as "Reggie", is a fictional character who appears in seven short stories by English comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. Reggie is a young man-about-town who gets drawn into trouble trying to help his pals. He is considered to be an early prototype for Bertie Wooster, who, along with his valet Jeeves, is one of Wodehouse's most famous creations.

Inspiration[edit]

Reggie Pepper was inspired by the English "dude" roles that Wodehouse saw on the New York stage, and by the stock Edwardian aristocrat parts that Wodehouse had seen played by comedian George Grossmith Jr.[1]

Life and character[edit]

Reggie Pepper is a young gentleman who does not do any work, having inherited a great deal of wealth from his uncle Edward Pepper of Pepper, Wells, & Co., the colliery people. He went to Oxford with Freddie Meadowes and Bill Shoolbred. In "Rallying Round Old George", he has a valet named Harold Voules, though he fires Voules by the end of the story. Later, in "Concealed Art", he employs a valet named Wilberforce.[2] Reggie sometimes meets his friends as his club, which is unnamed. (The stories in which he appears were written before Wodehouse had invented the Drones Club). Reggie is not ambitious and is content simply to watch traffic from the window of his club, though he is also curious about the affairs of his friends, as he states in "Concealed Art". Not interested in working himself, he respects others who work.

In the stories, Reggie tries to help his friends with their problems. Despite being considered not very intelligent by his friends, he occasionally experiences a flash of inspiration, which he sometimes refers to as getting a "brain-wave".[3] However, his well-intentioned interference generally backfires somehow. Reggie himself notes this, stating "Doesn't some poet or philosopher fellow say that it’s when our intentions are best that we always make the most poisonous bloomers? I can’t put my hand on the passage, but you’ll find it in Shakespeare or somewhere, I’m pretty certain. Anyhow, it’s always that way with me."[4]

Continually unlucky in love, Reggie states in "Rallying Round Old George" that he has been turned down dozens of times.[5] He was once in love with Elizabeth Shoolbred and was engaged to her for about a week, but she married the artist Clarence Yeardsley instead.[6] He also came close to marrying Ann Selby in "The Test Case".[7] Reggie is not engaged or married at the end of the stories, though he does not seem troubled by this. He is ultimately thankful that he did not marry Elizabeth Yeardsley, who proves to be rather manipulative, or Ann Selby, since she is a strong-minded girl who would have tried to change him.

The American editions of the Reggie Pepper stories differ slightly from the British editions. In the American editions, Reggie Pepper appears to be American and lives in New York instead of London. Another difference is that the money he inherits from his uncle came from a safety razor company rather than a coal company.

Prototype for Bertie Wooster[edit]

Reggie Pepper served as a prototype for Wodehouse's later character Bertie Wooster.[8] In a letter to a fan also named Wooster who asked Wodehouse about the origin of Bertie Wooster's name, Wodehouse wrote, "I can't remember how I got the name Wooster. I think it may have been from a serial in the old Captain, where one of the characters was called Worcester. The odd thing is that the Bertie W. character started out as Reggie Pepper, and I don't know why I changed the name."[9]

Notably, it is Bertie's valet Jeeves who would eventually be named "Reggie" like Reggie Pepper, and Bertie Wooster received the middle name "Wilberforce", which is the name of Reggie Pepper's valet.[10]

The Reggie Pepper stories[edit]

Reggie Pepper appears in the following stories:

The British versions of "Absent Treatment", "Helping Freddie", "Rallying Round Old George" and "Doing Clarence A Bit of Good" were collected along with four early Jeeves stories in My Man Jeeves, published in May 1919 by George Newnes.[11] The American versions of "Absent Treatment", "Brother Alfred" and "Rallying Round Clarence" were collected in the American edition of The Man with Two Left Feet, published in 1933 by A. L. Burt.[12] The British versions of "Disentangling Old Percy", "Concealed Art" and "The Test Case" were published as Plum Stones Volume 2: The Unrepublished Reggie Pepper in 1993 by Galahad Books, a specialist Wodehouse publisher.

All the Reggie Pepper stories, along with some early Jeeves stories, were published in the collection Enter Jeeves by Dover Publications in 1997. With the exception of "Disentangling Old Duggie", all the Reggie Pepper stories featured in this collection are actually the British editions with the American titles, despite the collection's bibliographic note stating that some of the stories are from their original American publications.

The plots of several of these early stories were later re-worked to feature other Wodehouse characters. "Helping Freddie" was rewritten as the Jeeves story "Fixing it for Freddie", published in Carry On, Jeeves in 1925. "Rallying Round Old George" was rewritten as the Mr Mulliner story "George and Alfred", published in Plum Pie in 1966. "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good" was rewritten as the Jeeves story "Jeeves Makes an Omelette", first published in the Star Weekly in 1958 and collected in A Few Quick Ones in 1959.[13]

Adaptations[edit]

The Reggie Pepper story "Rallying Round Old George" was adapted into the play Brother Alfred by Wodehouse and Herbert Westbrook, and presented at the Savoy Theatre in April 1913. This play starred and was produced by Lawrence Grossmith.[14] The British comedy film Brother Alfred, based on the play, was released in 1932.

Two silent short comedy films, "Making Good with Mother" and "Cutting Out Venus", released in the US in 1919, were inspired by the Reggie Pepper stories. The short films were directed by Lawrence C. Windom. Reggie Pepper was given a manservant named "Jeeves", inspired by the Wodehouse character Jeeves. In the films, Jeeves was a reformed burglar. Lawrence Grossmith portrayed Reggie Pepper and Charles Coleman portrayed Jeeves.[15]

Five of the Reggie Pepper stories were read by Martin Jarvis on BBC Radio 4 in a series titled The Reggie Pepper Stories.[16] The episodes, broadcast from 8 to 12 August 2015, included "Absent Treatment", "Lines and Business", "Disentangling Old Percy", "The Test Case", and "Concealed Art".[17]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Wodehouse (2013), A Life in Letters, p. 72, stated by editor Sophie Ratcliffe.
  2. ^ Garrison (1991), pp. 141-142.
  3. ^ Reggie gets what he calls a "brain-wave" (or "brain wave", or "brainwave") in "Helping Freddie", "Disentangling Old Percy", "Rallying Round Old George", "Concealed Art", and "The Test Case". His friend Bobbie Cardew gets a brain-wave in "Absent Treatment". The only story that does not mention brain-waves is "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good".
  4. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (August 1912). "Disentangling Old Percy". Madame Eulalie. Retrieved 10 February 2018.  Reggie also says something similar at the end of "The Test Case".
  5. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (December 1912). "Rallying Round Old George". Madame Eulalie. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 
  6. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (May 1913). "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good". Madame Eulalie. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 
  7. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (December 1915). "The Test Case". Madame Eulalie. Retrieved 12 February 2018. 
  8. ^ Wodehouse (2013), A Life in Letters, p. 74. According to editor Sophie Ratcliffe, Reggie Pepper was "the prototype for Bertie Wooster".
  9. ^ Wodehouse, P. G. (20 May 1962). "P. G. Wodehouse: Typed Letter Signed". Manhattan Rare Book Company. Retrieved 12 February 2018.  Note that "Worcester" is pronounced "Wooster".
  10. ^ Jeeves's first name was revealed in Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971); Bertie's middle name was revealed in The Mating Season (1949) and also mentioned in Much Obliged, Jeeves.
  11. ^ McIlvaine (1990), pp.33-34, A22a.
  12. ^ McIlvaine (1990), pp.31-33, A21.
  13. ^ Midkiff (2017).
  14. ^ McIlvaine (1990), p. 301, J7.
  15. ^ Taves (2006), pp. 16 and 150.
  16. ^ "The Reggie Pepper Stories: 1/5 Absent Treatment". BBC Genome Project. BBC. 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018. 
  17. ^ Lucas, John (2 February 2014). "Wodehouse, Pelham Grenville". The Global British Comedy Collaborative. Retrieved 22 February 2018. 
Bibliography

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