Wodehouse, (Sir) P(elham) G(renville)
WODEHOUSE, (Sir) P(elham) G(renville)
Nationality: American. Born: Guildford, Surrey, 15 October 1881; lived in Hong Kong, 1882-86; moved to the U.S., 1910; became citizen, 1955. Education: Schools in Croydon, Surrey, and Guernsey, Channel Islands; Dulwich College, London, 1894-1900. Family: Married Ethel Rowley (née Newton) in 1914; one step-daughter. Career: Clerk, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, London, 1900-02; full-time writer from 1902; columnist ("By the Way"), London Globe, 1903-09; drama critic, Vanity Fair, New York, 1915-19; scriptwriter in Hollywood for MGM, 1930, and RKO, 1936; lived in Le Touquet, France, 1934-39; interned by the Germans in Upper Silesia, 1940-41; lived on Long Island, New York, from 1947. Awards: D.Litt.: Oxford University, 1939. Knighted, 1975. Died: 14 February 1975.
Vintage Wodehouse, edited by Richard Usborne. 1977.
Wodehouse Nuggets, edited by Richard Usborne. 1983.
Four Plays (includes The Play's the Thing; Good Morning, Bill; Leave It to Psmith; Come On, Jeeves), edited by David A. Jasen. 1983.
Tales of St. Austin's (includes essays). 1903.
The Man Upstairs and Other Stories. 1914.
The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories. 1917; expanded edition, 1933.
My Man Jeeves. 1919.
Indiscretions of Archie. 1921.
The Clicking of Cuthbert. 1922; as Golf Without Tears, 1924.
The Inimitable Jeeves. 1923; as Jeeves, 1923.
Ukridge. 1924; as He Rather Enjoyed It, 1926.
Carry On, Jeeves! 1925.
Meet Mr. Mulliner. 1927.
Mr. Mulliner Speaking. 1929.
Very Good, Jeeves! 1930.
Mulliner Nights. 1933.
Mulliner Omnibus. 1935; revised edition, as The World of Mr. Mulliner, 1972.
Blandings Castle and Elsewhere. 1935.
Young Men in Spats. 1936.
Lord Emsworth and Others. 1937; as The Crime Wave at Blandings and Other Stories, 1937.
Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets. 1940.
Dudley Is Back to Normal. 1940.
Nothing Serious. 1950.
Selected Stories, edited by John W. Aldridge. 1958.
A Few Quick Ones. 1959.
Plum Pie. 1966.
The World of Jeeves. 1967.
The Golf Omnibus: Thirty-One Selected Golfing Short Stories. 1973.
The World of Psmith. 1974.
The World of Ukridge. 1975.
The Swoop! and Other Stories, edited by David Jasen. 1979.
The Pothunters. 1902.
A Prefect's Uncle. 1903.
The Gold Bat. 1904.
The Head of Kay's. 1905.
Love among the Chickens. 1906; revised edition, 1921.
The White Feather. 1907.
The Swoop! How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion. 1909.
Mike: A Public School Story. 1909; part 2 reprinted as Enter Psmith, 1935; revised edition, as Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith, 2 vols., 1953.
The Intrusion of Jimmy. 1910; as A Gentleman of Leisure, 1910.
Psmith in the City: A Sequel to Mike. 1910.
The Prince and Betty. 1912; revised edition, as Psmith, Journalist, 1915.
The Prince and Betty (different book from the previous title). 1912.
The Little Nugget. 1913.
Something New. 1915; as Something Fresh, 1915.
Uneasy Money. 1916.
Piccadilly Jim. 1917.
Their Mutual Child. 1919; as The Coming of Bill, 1920.
A Damsel in Distress. 1919.
The Little Warrior. 1920; as Jill the Reckless, 1921.
Three Men and a Maid. 1922; as The Girl on the Boat, 1922.
The Adventures of Sally. 1922; as Mostly Sally, 1923.
Leave It to Psmith. 1923.
Bill the Conqueror: His Invasion of England in the Springtime. 1924.
Sam the Sudden. 1925; as Sam in the Suburbs, 1925.
The Heart of a Goof. 1926; as Divots, 1927.
The Small Bachelor. 1927.
Money for Nothing. 1928.
Fish Preferred. 1929; as Summer Lightning, 1929; as Fish Deferred, 1929.
Big Money. 1931.
If I Were You. 1931.
Doctor Sally. 1932.
Hot Water. 1932.
Heavy Weather. 1933.
Thank You, Jeeves. 1934.
Right Ho, Jeeves. 1934; as Brinkley Manor, 1934.
The Luck of the Bodkins. 1935.
Laughing Gas. 1936.
Summer Moonshine. 1937.
The Code of the Woosters. 1938.
Uncle Fred in the Springtime. 1939.
Quick Service. 1940.
Money in the Bank. 1942.
Joy in the Morning. 1946.
Full Moon. 1947.
Spring Fever. 1948.
Uncle Dynamite. 1948.
The Mating Season. 1949.
The Old Reliable. 1951.
Barmy in Wonderland. 1952; as Angel Cake, 1952.
Pigs Have Wings. 1952.
Ring for Jeeves. 1953; as The Return of Jeeves, 1954.
Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. 1954; as Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, 1955.
French Leave. 1956.
Something Fishy. 1957; as The Butler Did It, 1957.
Cocktail Time. 1958.
How Right You Are, Jeeves. 1960; as Jeeves in the Offing, 1960.
The Ice in the Bedroom. 1961; as Ice in the Bedroom, 1961.
Service with a Smile. 1961.
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves. 1963.
Biffen's Millions. 1964; as Frozen Assests, 1964.
The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood. 1965; as Galahad at Blandings, 1965.
The Purloined Paperweight. 1967; as Company for Henry, 1967.
Do Butlers Burgle Banks? 1968.
A Pelican at Blandings. 1969; as No Nudes Is Good Nudes, 1970.
The Girl in Blue. 1970.
Much Obliged, Jeeves. 1971; as Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, 1971.
Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin. 1972; as The Plot That Thickened, 1973.
Bachelors Anonymous. 1973.
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. 1974; as The Cat-Nappers, 1974.
Sunset at Blandings, edited by Richard Usborne. 1977.
The Bandit's Daughter (sketch), with Herbert Westbrook, music by Ella King-Hall (produced 1907).
A Gentleman of Leisure, with John Stapleton, from the novel by Wodehouse (produced 1911); as A Thief for a Night (produced 1913).
After the Show, with Herbert Westbrook (produced 1913).
Brother Alfred, with Herbert Westbrook (produced 1913).
Nuts and Wine, with C. H. Bovill, music by Frank Tours (produced1914).
Pom Pom, with Anne Caldwell, music by Hugo Felix (produced1916).
Miss Springtime (lyrics only, with Herbert Reynolds), book by GuyBolton, music by Emmerich Kalman and Jerome Kern (produced 1916).
Have a Heart, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern (produced1917). 1917.
Oh, Boy!, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern (produced1917); as Oh, Joy (produced 1919).
Leave It to Jane, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern, from play The College Widow by George Ade (produced 1917).
Kitty Darlin' (lyrics only), book by Guy Bolton, music by RudolfFirml (produced 1917).
The Riviera Girl (lyrics only), book by Guy Bolton, music by Emmerich Kalman and Jerome Kern (produced 1917).
Miss 1917, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern and VictorHerbert (produced 1917).
Oh, Lady! Lady!, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern (produced 1918).
See You Later, with Guy Bolton, music by Jean Schwartz and Joseph Szulc (produced 1918).
The Girl Behind the Gun, with Guy Bolton, music by Ivan Caryll (produced 1918); as Kissing Time (produced 1919).
Oh, My Dear!, with Guy Bolton, music by Louis Hirsch (produced1918).
The Rose of China (lyrics only), book by Guy Bolton, music by Armand Vecsey (produced 1919).
The Golden Moth, with Fred Thompson, music by Ivor Novello (produced 1921).
The Cabaret Girl, with George Grossmith, Jr., music by JeromeKern (produced 1922).
The Beauty Prize, with George Grossmith, Jr., music by JeromeKern (produced 1923).
Sitting Pretty, with Guy Bolton, music by Jerome Kern (produced1924).
Hearts and Diamonds, with Laurie Wylie, music by BrunoGranichstaedten, lyrics by Graham John (produced 1926). 1926.
Oh, Kay!, with Guy Bolton, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin (produced 1926).
The Play's the Thing, from a play by Molnár (produced 1926).1927; in Four Plays, 1986.
Her Cardboard Lover, with Valerie Wyngate, from a play by Jacques Deval (produced 1927).
Good Morning, Bill, from a play by Ladislaus Fodor (produced1927). 1928; in Four Plays, 1986.
The Nightingale, with Guy Bolton, music by Armand Vecsey (produced 1927).
A Damsel in Distress, with Ian Hay, from the novel by Wodehouse (produced 1928). 1930.
The Three Musketeers (lyrics only, with Clifford Grey), book by Bill McGuire, music by Rudolf Friml (produced 1928). 1937.
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, with Ian Hay (produced 1929). 1930.
Candle-Light, from a play by Siegfried Geyer (produced 1929). 1934.
Leave It to Psmith, with Ian Hay (produced 1930). 1932; in Four Plays, 1986.
Who's Who, with Guy Bolton (produced 1934).
Anything Goes, with Guy Bolton, music by Cole Porter (produced1934). 1936.
The Inside Stand (produced 1935).
Don't Listen Ladies, with Guy Bolton, from a play by Sacha Guitry (produced 1948).
Nothing Serious (produced 1950; also produced as Springboard to Nowhere, and House on a Cliff).
Come On, Jeeves, with Guy Bolton (produced 1956). 1956; in Four Plays, 1986.
Oh, Kay!, with Carey Wilson and Elsie Janis, 1928;Those Three French Girls, with others, 1930; The Man in Possession, 1931; Anything Goes, with others, 1936; Damsel in Distress, with Ernest Pagano and S.K. Lauren, 1937; Her Cardboard Lover, with others, 1942.
Arthur, from a play by Molnár.
The Parrot and Other Poems. 1988.
William Tell Told Again. 1904.
Not George Washington, with Herbert Westbrook. 1907; edited by David A. Jasen, 1980.
The Globe "By the Way" Book: A Literary Quick-Lunch for People Who Have Only Got Five Minutes to Spare, with Herbert Westbrook. 1908.
Louder and Funnier (essays). 1932.
Nothing But Wodehouse, edited by Ogden Nash. 1932.
Wodehouse (selection). 1934.
Bring on the Girls! The Improbable Story of Our Life in Musical Comedy, with Pictures to Prove It, with Guy Bolton. 1953.
Performing Flea: A Self-Portrait in Letters, edited by W. T. Townend. 1953; revised edition (including text of five Berlin radio broadcasts), 1961; as Author! Author!, 1962.
America, I Like You. 1956; revised edition, as Over Seventy: An Autobiography with Digressions, 1957.
The Uncollected Wodehouse, edited by David A. Jasen. 1976.
Wodehouse on Cricket. 1987.
Yours, Plum: The Letters of Wodehouse, edited by Frances Donaldson. 1990.
Plum to Peter: Letters of P. G. Wodehouse to his Editor Peter Schwed. 1996.
Editor, A Century of Humour. 1934.
Editor, with Scott Meredith, The Best of Modern Humor. 1952.
Editor, with Scott Meredith, The Week-End Book of Humor. 1952.
Editor, with Scott Meredith, A Carnival of Modern Humor. 1967.*
A Bibliography and Reader's Guide to the First Editions of Wodehouse by David A. Jasen, 1970, revised edition, 1986; by Eileen McIlvaine, in Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration, 1981.
Wodehouse at Work: A Study of the Books and Characters, 1961 (includes bibliography), revised edition, as Wodehouse at Work to the End, 1977, A Wodehouse Companion, 1981, and The Penguin Wodehouse Companion, 1988, all by Richard Usborne; Wodehouse by Richard J. Voorhees, 1966; Wodehouse by R. B. D. French, 1966; Homage to Wodehouse edited by Thelma Cazalet-Keir, 1973; Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master by David A. Jasen, 1974, revised edition, 1981; The Comic Style of Wodehouse by Robert A. Hall, Jr., 1974; Wodehouse: A Critical and Historical Essay by Owen Dudley Edwards, 1977; Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography by Joseph Connolly, 1979, revised edition, 1987; In Search of Blandings by N. T. P. Murphy, 1981; Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration edited by James H. Heineman and Donald R. Bensen, 1981; Wodehouse: A Literary Biography by Benny Green, 1981; Wodehouse at War by Iain Sproat, 1981; Thank You, Wodehouse by J. H. C. Morris, 1981; Wodehouse: A Biography by Fras Donaldson, 1982; Who's Who in Wodehouse by Daniel Garrison, 1989; Plum's Peaches: Women in Wodehouse edited by D. R. Bensen, 1995.* * *
The fictional world of P. G. Wodehouse is peopled by eccentric earls, an amiable but boneheaded aristocracy, and hearty, healthy country folk. Such a world, together with its urban extension, offered Wodehouse, the greatest English humorist of the twentieth century, endless material to turn irreverently on its head.
Wodehouse's father, a judge in Hong Kong, was connected to the Earls of Kimberley. Wodehouse was brought up in England and then by a succession of aunts, one of whom provided the prototype of his own fictional Aunt Agatha—"who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin"—and who left him with a humorous anti-aunt complex. Not surprisingly he was an introspective, lonely boy, deprived of a normal home life and starved of parental affection. He began writing at the age of seven and never really wanted to do anything else. On leaving school Wodehouse was employed by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, but hated both the bank and the place. Back in England he got a job as a columnist with The Globe newspaper. His first book, The Pothunters, appeared in 1902. Mike first introduced the character Psmith, whereupon, in Evelyn Waugh's words, "the light was kindled which has burned with glowing brilliance for half a century."
During his long writing career Wodehouse produced about 200 books (including various compilations and collections), some 30 stage plays, and, during a few years working in Hollywood, more than a dozen film scripts. Since his death much of his material has appeared on television. His fiction includes about 150 short stories. It is difficult to settle for an exact number, because some of his novels are really extended short stories or novellas, while others are so episodic—variations on a single theme—as to be really loosely linked short stories.
The early stories, like the novels written before about 1918, deal mainly with school life. These stories first appeared in publications like The Captain, a magazine for public schoolboys, at that time by far his most regular market, and in Chums and The Public School Magazine. They were mostly written in formula for The Captain—good yarns full of games, raggings, and study teas. Mike has been called "perhaps the best light school story in the English language." Some of the best of these early short stories are in Tales of St. Austins, which introduce the quirky schoolmasters Pullingford and Mellish.
The mature stories were written mostly during the 1920s and 1930s, the marketable heyday of the short story, when The Strand magazine in London paid Wodehouse as much as 500 guineas for a single tale. He wrote for The Saturday Review and The American Magazine in the United States, this last making him the record payment of $6, 000 for one story. According to Richard Usborne (in Wodehouse at Work to the End), 12 short stories could earn Wodehouse £20, 000 from magazine fees alone, with, of course, book royalties to follow.
The essence of a Wodehouse short story is an irreverent look at some particular aspect of English life: sex (though the Wodehouse lovers never get past enthusiastically wooing their girls and their mothers), golf, cricket, children, aunts and uncles, politicians, policemen, old age, royalty, and even the church. Especially in the short stories he was an excellent deviser and twister of ingenious plots, the Jeeves stories usually having an extra twist in the tail. The critic Owen Dudley Edwards (in P. G. Wodehouse: A Critical and Historical Essay) described them as "extremely crafty, never arty—always mechanically good and often very funny in themselves."
Wodehouse's character Ukridge (his only unpleasant narrator), who believed in "giving false names as an ordinary business precaution," defined the whole race of Wodehousian butlers, including Jeeves: "Meeting him in the street and ignoring the foul bowler hat he wore on his walks abroad, you would have put him down as a Bishop in mufti, or at the least, a plenipotentiary at one of the better courts." Butlers, mostly Jeeves (who began life as "Jevons" in the story "Creatures of Impulse," published in The Strand in 1914), appear in some 80 books.
Wodehouse was a master of witty yet accurate metaphor and simile: "Jeeves coughed that soft cough of his, the one that sounds like a sheep clearing its throat on a distant mountainside"; "The Duke's moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on the tide"; "He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg." Such felicities abound on almost every page Wodehouse wrote.
Appreciation of Wodehouse since the war has steadily grown. Sir Compton Mackenzie, for instance, praised "the ingenious plot, the marvellous simile, the preposterous characters which came to life and remain alive and the continuously dynamic dialogue." Best of all, perhaps, was Evelyn Waugh, who observed: "For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no fall of man; no 'aboriginal calamity.' His characters have never tasted forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The Gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled. The chef Anatole prefers the ambrosia for the immortals of high Olympus. Mr. Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale."
He is, indeed, one of the twentieth century's most original English short story writers, reminding us, in Auberon Waugh's words, "that the best jokes ignore everything in which men of authority try to interest us."
See the essay on "Uncle Fred Flits By."