Doing some comfort re-reading of The Code of the Woosters, I'm in awe again of Wodehouse's overwhelming genius, as a wordsmith, as a plot architect, as a creator of unforgettable characters.
Wodehouse writes the Jeeves and Wooster stories in the person of Bertie Wooster, who has an unwavering faith in his intellect and sophistication, and is utterly convinced that he is a good deal smarter than most of the other characters in the novels he narrates. (His valet, Jeeves, excepted, mostly.) Furthermore, as the channel for Wodehouse's style, his first-person voice is fluid, hilarious, and studded with an average of three metaphors of dazzling originality per page of text. And yet, through the medium of his own self-deluded words, we are still left with the indelible impression that Bertie is a complete chump.
How does Wodehouse do this? Through passages like this, where Bertie discusses his friend, newt-fancier Gussie Fink-Nottle, with Gussie's fiancee, the dreaded Madeline Bassett.
"Have you not sometimes felt in the past, Bertie, that, if Augustus had a fault, it was a tendency to be a little timid?"
I saw what she meant.
"Oh, ah, yes, of course, definitely." I remembered something Jeeves had once called Gussie. "A sensitive plant, what?"
"Exactly. You know your Shelley, Bertie."
"Oh, am I?"