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Wodehouse’s men: objects of desire

Psmith

Cover of the Bietti edition of Leave it to Psmith (1936) courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’d like to take a short break from my series exploring Wodehouse on Women  to share a remarkable piece entitled 111 Male Characters Of British Literature, In Order Of Bangability by Carrie Frye, in which Ms Frye lists 111 fictional characters she finds sexually desirable enough to take to her bed. Almost as astonishing as her stamina, is the fact that she includes not one, but three Wodehouse characters in her list of male sex objects. These are, in order of appearance:

Gussie Fink Nottle (at 106)

Bertram Wooster (at 87)

– Jeeves (at 65)

Gussie’s inclusion in the list defies belief, as does Jeeves, who at 65 ranks above the virile and irresistible Flashman.  Ms Frye gives her source for these appearances, as Right-Ho Jeeves and the story Extricating Young Gussie. I’ve read both, but confess I’ve never felt these characters casting quite the same kind of spell over me.

It would not be in quite the Wodehouse spirit for me to devise a list of my own, but if I may take the liberty, I would like to offer some alternative suggestions for the benefit of any other impressionable romantics considering a mate from the world of Wodehouse:

Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, would make an excellent companion for any woman who is looking to curl up happily with a book in her spacious ancestral boudoir, unbothered by  the attentions of a human octopus, or indeed any attention at all. If your idea of romance is watching the sun set over the Empress of Blandings as she enjoys a late supper (of barley meal, maize meal, linseed meal, potatoes and separated buttermilk)  in her sty, then Clarence is the man for you.

Monty Bodkin is a romantic soul who will make considerable personal sacrifices (like working for Lord Tilbury) to win the girl he loves. Unlike many of his fellow Drones, he is financially solvent and won’t ‘touch’ you for a fiver or pawn your jewellery to placate a wrathful bookie. He is handsome, charming and honourable, but – it must be said – not an intellectual giant.

Galahad Threepwood is a debonair man-about-town who can be relied upon to show you a good time, taking in the best restaurants and night spots of London. You’ll be enthralled by his conversation too, particularly his reminiscences. You may not replace the women he loved and lost (Dolly Henderson) in his affections, or persuade this old bachelor to don the sponge-bag trousers and gardenia button-hole, but his gallant conduct is unlikely to bring about a breach-of-promise case either.

Esmond Haddock has the kind of rugged good looks and self-effacing charm that enticed actress Cora Star to give up Hollywood in favour of Kings Deverill, Hampshire. He is the popular local squire, loved by one and all. But this handsome, likeable fellow may need your help to prevent his five scaly Aunts (including the domineering Dame Daphne Winkworth) from dominating the proceedings at Deverill Hall.

Rupert Psmith is my personal ideal, an appealing Dorian Gray of comedy, without all that fuss in the attic. He is witty, adventurous, original and terrific fun. (If he takes you to dinner, don’t order the fish.)  Life will never be dull with Psmith around, but you may have to get used to living in the shadow of his remarkable personality.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time to retire to bed with a good book.

HP

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27 Comments

  1. […] Wodehouse's men: objects of desire (honoriaplum.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Nish says:

    Gussie Fink Nottle? Ewww, wasn’t there some story about him and newts or something like that? How?

  3. honoria plum says:

    Reblogged this on Plumtopia and commented:

    Who is your Wodehouse dream date? As Valentine’s Day approaches, it seemed fitting to revisit this 2013 piece, looking at the men in Wodehouse’s world in search of a mate.

  4. Jon says:

    Being a straight male I wouldn’t be all that keen on a date with Psmith, but I would very much like to be him. As for the original 111 … what peculiar taste in men! Augustus Fink-Nottle isn’t even the weirdest name on there.

  5. linnetmoss says:

    Jeeves, definitely. Within that bulging brain there is, no doubt, an infallible knowledge of female psychology and anatomy. Plus he could run the bath, cook gourmet food, and bring you a killer cup of tea… what’s not to like?
    The choice of Spink-Bottle is utterly inexplicable (maybe he’s OK after he’s had a few?), but I don’t think I’d throw Bertie out of bed. He’s a decent sort after all, and good for a laugh.
    Comrade Psmith–agreed. He wins on the sheer force of his personality.
    My dark horse candidate is Anatole 🙂
    Thanks for a hilarious post!

  6. ashokbhatia says:

    What a juicy list!
    From a practical view point, Jeeves, with his superior intellect and home-making skills, fits the bill. He would also know what to do if ever we land up there with either a couple of cats or an injured mate. Aunts would get taken care of. Cruises would get booked right in time, so you could escape the fury of one of them. McIntosh will get attended to.
    With him managing the affairs, the sun would never set, the birds would never fail to twitter, the butterflies would never cease to flap around, roses would forever be in bloom, God would continue to be in heaven in a benign mood and all would be fine with the world.

    • honoria plum says:

      Yes indeed. But a wife might like a mate whose emotional range extends beyond the raising of an eyebrow. I also wonder if Jeeves would really want to continue being a domestic God in his spare time. I know Jeeves was betrothed a few times, but it’s hard to imagine anyone measuring up to the role of Mrs Jeeves. But you are quite right — his many qualities make him a real catch!

    • honoria plum says:

      Hmmmm…. I have just returned home from a long day at work, with a head cold and a hungry child to find my own spouse has gone to the pub. Jeeves is sounding better by the minute!

  7. ashokbhatia says:

    Reblogged this on ashokbhatia and commented:
    Which are your favourite male characters from the Wodehouse canon?

    Here is a discussion which many of the yet-to-be-affianced from the tribe of the delicately nurtured might like!

  8. Well Ashok, it’s taken you a long time to get around to this but I’m glad you did because I never knew such a list existed. I don’t think Plum would be terribly amused — he never needed the Hays Office to keep sex out of the bedroom. But seeing we’ve gone this far, let me say that the inclusion of Gussie is susceptible of a ready explanation. His engagement to La Bassett must be one of the longest in literature and his skill in imitating newts mating must be accepted as a major plus. I mean to say, all that wagging of the nether regions at the object of desire . . . it would send any girl crazy. And it did! Let us not forget he eloped with Pauline Stoker and was last heard of heading to the good ole US of A where the oranges grow. Hello Honoria.

  9. The Gussie in ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ is NOT Gussie Fink-Nottle. The original post has confused the 2.

    • honoria plum says:

      Actually her sources are correct. If you follow the link to the article, you will see she has given ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ as the source for Gussie Fink Nottle and ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ as the source for Jeeves and Bertie. I presume she cites this as their ‘first’ story, although Jeeves hardly features. The Gussie of the title is Bertie’s cousin Gussie Mannering-Phipps.

  10. And please, good people! We should know by now that Bertie and Jeeves are made for each other. No opposite sex for either. Wodehouse has left enough clear indications. Read ‘Bertie Changes his Mind’ and the last chapter of ‘The Inimitable Jeeves’.

    • Oh dear. If you wish to explore the relationship between Bertie and Jeeves, dig up the book by Kristin Thompson called Wooster Proposes, Jeeves Disposes and get an overflowing beaker full of “psychical marriage”. Then throw the book in a corner. Also, lest anyone get the wrong idea, consider the girlfriends both Jeeves and Bertie have left behind. Neither is definitely what the London gossip columns used to call a “confirmed bachelor”. And, yes, you’re right about Extricating Young Gussie — the G there is an early prototype of Bertie.

      • honoria plum says:

        Noel. The original piece gives Extricating Young Gussie as the source for Jeeves and Bertie, and Right Ho, Jeeves as the source for Gussie Fink-Nottle so she hasn’t confused her Gussies. I presume she has selected Extricating Young Gussie as a source because it’s the ‘first’ Bertie and Jeeves’ story, although Jeeves hardly features.

      • honoria plum says:

        As I replied to Prodosh, I have never seen their relationship in that way, but I’m happy for others to make the case, and to discuss further if they do. I confess I am curious to better understand why people think this. It can’t be simply because they are two males in a central relationship, can it? This isn’t uncommon in either life or literature.

    • honoria plum says:

      I’ve never seen it myself, but I don’t object to others making the argument.

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