Born this day in 1871, Parkinson was a prolific writer who touched on some of my favorite themes, most conspicuously the history of the Royal Navy. Although I’ve never tried his fictional naval novels (I have his “biography” of Horatio Hornblower but have never read it), I have read his Britannia Rules and his Short History of the Royal Navy 1776-1815, both excellent texts.

Parkinson also wrote a novel entitled Jeeves: A Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman, which purports to be a biographical sketch of Jeeves not only in his youth, but also in his later years after Bertie has got married and assumed the title of Lord Yaxley. I must say that I was less than impressed with this work. For one thing, Jeeves was never really a character, more a Deus Ex Machina. The humor of the relationship between him and Bertie is in Bertie’s recounting of his own discoveries of and reactions to Jeeves’ offstage machinations. (Indeed, one of Plum Wodehouse’s few outright failures was a short Bertie & Jeeves story he wrote from Jeeves’ point of view.) More importantly, though, Wodehouse had such a light, perfect touch in portraying Jeeves that anybody else having a go at it would resemble a man attacking a souffle with a spade.

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