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Who is Jeeves?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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Jeeves is a character created by English author P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975). Wodehouse introduced him in a 1915 short story entitled "Extricating Young Gussie," and the character recurred, along with his employer Bertie Wooster, throughout Wodehouse's literary career. Jeeves is the quintessential valet, or personal servant, ready with an answer to any problem.

The character has come to symbolize impeccable service, and his name is used as a byword in this respect. He has become a stereotypical name for other types of personal servants besides valets, such as butlers and chauffeurs. Additionally, he has inspired the online search engine Ask Jeeves.

Wodehouse's work regarding Wooster and his butler encompass 35 short stories and 11 novels. The stories are humorous, and the wealthy, foppish, and somewhat silly Wooster serves as a foil to the perpetually perfect butler. The story of their relationship can be traced through the canon. Jeeves started working for Wooster when the latter was 24, and Wooster comes to trust him in all matters, down to the minutiae of his wardrobe. In many of the stories, Bertie Wooster gets himself into trouble of some kind, and Jeeves cleverly finds a solution.

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Jeeves is also known to the public through actor Stephen Fry's portrayal in the British television series Jeeves and Wooster, which ran from 1990 to 1993 and was closely based on the stories of Wodehouse. Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry's comedy partner since the early 1980s and currently the star of House, played Bertie Wooster. The show was very successful and introduced the stories of P.G. Wodehouse to a new generation.

There is also a musical based on the characters, entitled By Jeeves, with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and libretto by Alan Ayckbourn. It first opened in 1975, but closed after a month. In 1996, it saw better success with a new script and has since been staged around the world.

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