I've been wanting to do this one a long time; really, it should have come first. This is where the whole story began for me, with Right Ho, Jeeves (1934), in this edition.
There was, at a guess, about 1981. I was about twelve, and I would have been at school, only I was ill. With what, I can't remember. I only know that I was desperate for something to read, and I picked up this book from Dad's bookshelves. I stared in some bafflement at the opening lines:
Raised on simple tales that began clearly and simply, stating who was who and what was what from the off, I couldn't begin to get a grip on this. Dialogue. Yes, that was all right. I could cope with dialogue. But then... what was this? The narrator bursts in, interrupting: "No - wait. Hold the line a minute. I've gone off the rails." But what line? What rails?
Never mind; I was ill, and there was nothing else to read. I ploughed on, baffled to the utmost by a barrage of unfamiliar slang. And yet, by the end of the page, it was as if something had clicked in my brain. It all started to make a sort of sense. The truth is that this young lad, raised to read basic narrative of the Enid Blyton sort, had suddenly been brought for the first time into violent contact with Style. From there on, his fate was sealed.
I could not have started in a better place. Right Ho, Jeeves is Wodehouse's best book, and that is not a matter of opinion but solid, scientific fact. Almost everything is right with it. Let us be honest: sometimes a Wodehouse plot, clockwork-precise though it may be, has a flaw. Occasionally, it may occur to the reader: that would never happen. Or: that isn't a strong enough motive. Sometimes, you can even see Wodehouse skating over the weak part of the logic and hoping no one will notice. But not here. Everything fits. But much more than that, this is the book in which Wodehouse hits his highest peak, with Gussie presenting the prizes. That is the thing that takes the book to a whole new level. It goes off like a firework display.
Anyway, that isn't what I'm supposed to be talking about. Ionicus's cover is arresting, but I am not sure it is his best effort. First of all, it is a prime example of his weakness for illustrating the end of the story. It sets out Jeeves's final devious twist which Bertie himself will not know about for another dozen pages. The first time reader, getting to the moment when Bertie sets out on his nightmare bike ride, looks again at the cover and thinks: Oh, I see!
For another thing, perhaps it is that I grew up at a time when skinheads were thugs, but Jeeves has altogether too sinister a look about him here. He is a Machiavelli, yes, but a benign Machiavelli. Here, his scheming appears too malicious.
Nevertheless, as a cover it is good: intriguing, puzzling, well-composed, a study in grey.
The text, for those who wish to know, is Monotype Garamond.
Very Good, Jeeves! (1930), the fourth volume of Jeeves short stories (if we count the ur-text, My Man Jeeves, in the number), is to my mind a sort of companion volume to Right Ho, Jeeves. These stories effectively set up the situation in the later novel, especially those relating to Aunt Dahlia, Tuppy Glossop and Angela Travers.
The cover is, if I may say so, a stunner. It's a genuine work of art, which I would be proud to have on my wall. Everything is there from the story "Jeeves and the Impending Doom": the octagonal folly, the swan, the rain, the Cabinet Minister in distress; and, coming to the rescue, Bertie and the mysterious but instantly recognisable figure of Jeeves. Personally, I am inclined to say this is the best of the Ionicus covers, and that is saying something.
The type is Linotype Georgian, and the narrative grips from the beginning.