Bertie Wooster

From Academic Kids

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Critics saw Bertie Wooster, here portrayed by Hugh Laurie in ITV's Jeeves and Wooster series, as detrimental to the worldwide image of a young British man.

Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster is the foppish, dim-witted, and very wealthy co-protagonist of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories. A British aristocrat and member of the "idle rich", he always appears alongside his highly intelligent "personal gentleman's gentleman" Jeeves, whose genius manages to extract Bertie or one of his friends from numerous awkward or difficult situations.

Contents

Family

Bertie, who is apparently an orphan, has at least two aunts and two uncles from the Wooster family, though Wodehouse alludes to his father's having had many siblings. Only his aunts—Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Agatha, sisters of his late father—play major roles in the stories; his uncles, while mentioned in passing, are not recurring characters.

Bertie has at least five uncles, three of which he has acquired by marriage: Tom Travers, Aunt Dahlia's husband; Spenser Gregson, Aunt Agatha's first husband; and Percy Craye, Earl of Worplesdon, her second; Henry Wooster, a "looney" of whom the family is deeply embarrassed; and Willoughby Wooster. Henry's twin sons Claude and Eustace—Bertie's cousins—play significant roles in several stories, as do Aunt Dahlia's children Angela and Bonzo Travers and Aunt Agatha's young son Thos (Thomas) Gregson.

At first, Bertie depends on his Uncle Willoughby for financial support, but upon his uncle's death, Bertie apparently inherits a vast fortune. Nevertheless, he is perpetually afraid of his Aunt Agatha, who considers him a spineless invertebrate and a burden on society; his Aunt Dahlia, on the contrary, likes him very much, often inviting him to stay at her country estate, Brinkley Court.

Bertie also has a cousin named Gussie, mentioned in the first Jeeves story, Extricating Young Gussie, in which his and his cousin's last name is Mannering-Phipps. Wodehouse apparently changed his mind afterward, though the Bertie in the first story is undoubtedly the same as that of the later stories; indeed, Bertie refers on several occasions to the "rummy affair" of Gussie.

Romance

Though he never marries, and is wholly averse to the idea, he nevertheless becomes engaged to a series of girls including Madeline Bassett, Honoria Glossop and Lady Florence Craye. Though he expresses a desire to marry Lady Florence in Jeeves Takes Charge, in the later stories and novels, whenever he becomes engaged, he regards it as a dire situation from which Jeeves must extricate him.

Aunt Agatha is of the opinion that Bertie, a burden to society in his present state, must marry; furthermore, he must marry a girl capable of moulding his personality and compensating for his many defects. This prospect mortifies Bertie, not least because it would mean he and Jeeves would part ways.

Jeeves

When Bertie caught his valet Meadowes stealing his silk socks, he sacked him and sent for another from the agency. Jeeves, arriving in Jeeves Takes Charge, mixes Bertie a hangover cure of his own invention and is hired almost immediately. Thereafter, Bertie cedes much of the control of his life to Jeeves, clashing occasionally on matters of dress. When Jeeves expresses disapproval of a particular article of Bertie's clothing, be it a brightly-colored cummerbund, a check suit, purple socks, various hats or even a moustache, it is certain that it will be disposed of by the end of the story, sometimes after a period of coolness between him and Jeeves.

Among Bertie's many reasons for not wanting to marry are his dislike of children and that all of his fiancees seem to dislike Jeeves, insisting that Bertie sack him after their wedding. Aunt Agatha also disapproves strongly of Jeeves's influence on Bertie, seeing it as further proof of self-insufficiency and unwillingness to take responsibility.

Miscellaneous

Bertie belongs to the Drones Club, where many of his adventures take place. He is also acquainted with Lord Emsworth, another of Wodehouse's best-known characters, and mentions having visited Blandings Castle.

Controversy

Bertie's foppish foolishness was not popular with everyone. Papers released by the Public Record Office have disclosed that when Wodehouse was recommended for a Companion of Honour in 1967, Sir Patrick Dean, British ambassador in Washington, argued that it "would also give currency to a Bertie Wooster image of the British character which we are doing our best to eradicate."

TV actors

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Hugh Laurie (left) and Stephen Fry portray Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves

Hugh Laurie portrayed Bertie in the early-1990s ITV series Jeeves and Wooster opposite his longtime comedy partner Stephen Fry as Jeeves.

In the earlier BBC World of Wooster (1965-7), Ian Carmichael played the part of Bertie opposite Dennis Price as Jeeves.

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