I feel that any new year should be entered into in the spirit of enthusiasm, optimism, and the unrealistic expectation of an extraordinary amount of sheer dumb luck. And who better to set us off on that journey than Bertie Wooster. Whenever I’m feeling down, Wodehouse cheers me up. Bertie’s incessant bonhomie can never fail to lift me. He embodies Humphrey Lyttelton’s wonderful phrase, which acted as his epipath:
“As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from desiccation”.
Here’s a sample from the first chapter of “Much Obliged, Jeeves”. Bertie is feeling particularly chipper. And, I hope, this is the spirit in which we shall all eat the first breakfast of 2015.
“These eggs, Jeeves,” I said. “Very good. Very tasty.”
“Laid, no doubt, by contented hens. And the coffee, perfect. Nor must I omit to give a word of praise to the bacon. I wonder if you notice anything about me this morning.”
“You seem in good spirits, sir.”
“Yes, Jeeves, I am happy today. What’s the word I’ve heard you use from time to time — begins with eu?”
“That’s the one. I’ve seldom had a sharper attack of euphoria. Mind you, I don’t know how long it will last.”
“Very true, sir. Full many a glorious morning have I seen flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye, kissing with golden face the meadows green, gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy, Anon permit the basest clouds to ride with ugly rack on his celestial face and from the forlorn world his visage hide, stealing unseen to west with this disgrace.”
“Exactly,” I said. I couldn’t have put it better myself. “One always has to budget for a change in the weather.”
“Precisely, sir. Carpe diem, the Roman poet Horace advised, or as Herrick, the English bard, had it, gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Your elbow is in the butter, sir.”
Wodehouse wrote that at the age of ninety. I hope he had just enjoyed such a breakfast as he did so.
Happy new year everyone.