AKA The Intrusion of Jimmy
As I am reading through all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, it is rather fun to watch his novels shape into what I would consider ‘traditional’ Wodehouse. A Gentleman of Leisure has many of those components, with lively dialogue, engaging characters, love at first sight, overbearing fathers, and overwhelming aunts.
The story starts well, with a group of actors gathered together at their club after a successful night of a new play. They are all happy to see their old friend Jimmy show up. He inherited a bunch of money a while back, so he’s been off traveling the world and they never know when they will see him around again. He chats it up with his friends, complimenting them on an excellent play, one which revolves around the story of a thief. As their conversation continues, Jimmy supposes that breaking into a house would be no difficult feat, and, long story short, he and a friend make a bet as to whether or not he can successfully break into a house that very night.
As luck would have it, after Jimmy gets home and settles into his chair, what should happen but that a thief should attempt to rob him! Rather than turn in the would-be criminal, Jimmy convinces him to show Jimmy how to break into a house.
The story continues as we follow the would-be love life of Jimmy, and there were plenty of laugh-aloud moments. This plot is, by Wodehouse standards, fairly straight-forward, but one can already see some of his favorite tropes coming into play.
One interesting thing is that I originally started reading this on my Kindle – all of Wodehouse’s earliest works are available as free Kindle books because they are out of copyright. I found I was enjoying this one enough that I decided to go ahead and order a hard copy from eBay. While the Kindle edition was a straight copy of the original 1910 print, my hard copy is a later edition that was published in the 1960’s. I had initially read maybe a third of the story on my Kindle, and I was intrigued to find that there were several differences in the newer copy. The biggest one was that in the original book Jimmy had just arrived in America via the Lusitania, but in the later edition the name of the ship has been changed to the Mauretania, presumably due to the tragic sinking of the former, which would have occurred several years after the book was first printed. The newer book also included some random background story on one of the characters (which seemed weirdly unnecessary as it never came into play later in the story), and probably other changes that I don’t remember/didn’t notice. It was just a funny thing to remember how much many of his books changed over the years as Wodehouse himself edited them before they were reprinted.
Anyway, all in all A Gentleman of Leisure wasn’t my favorite Wodehouse ever, but was still a fun and lively little read, and one that I’m glad to add to my ever-growing collection.