The Code of the Woosters
First US edition
|Author||P. G. Wodehouse|
|Publisher||Herbert Jenkins, Doubleday, Doran|
|7 October 1938|
|Preceded by||Right Ho, Jeeves|
|Followed by||Joy in the Morning|
The Code of the Woosters is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published on 7 October 1938, in the United Kingdom by Herbert Jenkins, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York. It was serialised in The Saturday Evening Post (US) from 16 July to 3 September 1938 and in the London Daily Mail from 14 September to 6 October 1938.
The Code of the Woosters is the first installment in the Totleigh Towers saga. It introduces the characters of Sir Watkyn Bassett, the owner of Totleigh Towers, and Roderick Spode, later known as Lord Sidcup after his accession to an earldom. It is also a sequel to Right Ho, Jeeves, continuing the story of Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett, whose engagement is so important to Bertie (the narrator and protagonist), because he does not wish to be obliged to marry Madeline himself.
The story opens with Bertie recovering from a bachelor party he has thrown the night before for Gussie Fink-Nottle, his fish-faced, newt-fancying friend. While still convalescing, he is summoned before his beloved Aunt Dahlia and ordered by her to go to a particular antique shop and "sneer at a cow creamer". This is an effort to sap the confidence of the shop's owner and thus drive down the piece's price before it is purchased by Dahlia's collector husband Tom Travers. While in the shop, Bertie has his first run-in with Sir Watkyn (another collector of silver pieces) and Spode (whose aunt Sir Watkyn is planning to marry). Bertie escapes this ordeal relatively unscathed, but later learns that, via underhanded skulduggery involving lobsters and cold cucumbers, Sir Watkyn has obtained possession of the creamer ahead of Uncle Tom and spirited it away to Totleigh Towers. Bertie was already headed there in a frantic attempt to patch over the sudden rupture in the engagement of Gussie and Madeline Bassett, Sir Watkyn's droopy and oversentimental daughter. This engagement is very important to Bertie because Madeline believes Bertie is in love with her, and has resolved to "make him happy" by marrying him if her engagement to Gussie should ever fail. Bertie is terrified by the prospect of spending his life with the goofy Madeline, but his personal code of chivalrous behavior will not allow him to reject her since she believes so strongly in his love.
Additionally, Bertie has been assigned an impossible task by Aunt Dahlia: to recover the cow creamer, which is being guarded both by Spode and the local police. His situation is complicated further by the presence at Totleigh Towers of Stiffy Byng, Sir Watkyn's anarchic young ward, who draws Bertie into her plan to marry the local curate, another old pal of Bertie's named "Stinker" Pinker. Matters are further complicated by a certain leather-covered notebook of Gussie's, in which he has lovingly and extensively detailed Sir Watkyn and Spode's many character failings, and which has escaped Gussie's possession and may be found and read by Sir Watkyn at any time. This would infallibly cause Sir Watkyn to forbid Madeline to marry Gussie, which would in turn cause her to marry Bertie.
Jeeves's intellect is strained to the utmost, but in the end, the two couples are still engaged to be married, the cow creamer is headed back towards the hands of its rightful owner, and Bertie has not been beaten to a pulp by Spode, thrown in jail for stealing a policeman's helmet, roped into marriage with either Madeline or Stiffy, or cut off from partaking in the cooking of the famed Anatole. In gratitude, he agrees to take the Round-The-World cruise Jeeves has been promoting, thinking that at absolute worst, he won't be seeing Stiffy Byng.
Spode has two jobs—he is the leader of the Black Shorts, a Fascist organisation (and is closely modelled on the real-life fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley), but also designs and sells women's underwear. He is perpetually in fear that his followers in his first role will discover his second one and it is the threat of this disclosure which is used by Jeeves to stop him assaulting Bertie.
The actual code of the Woosters is "Never let a pal down."
Perfect Nonsense, based on The Code of the Woosters, and the first ever play featuring Jeeves and Wooster, was first performed on 10 October 2013 at Richmond Theatre, moving to the West End later that month, where its run at the Duke of York's Theatre, London, was extended to 20 September 2014.
- McIlvaine, E., Sherby, L.S. and Heineman, J.H. (1990) P.G. Wodehouse: A comprehensive bibliography and checklist. New York: James H. Heineman, pp. 74-76. ISBN 087008125X
- The Russian Wodehouse Society's page, with photos of book covers and a list of characters
- Summaries of most of P.G. Wodehouses books, information on characters