Wodehouse, P. G.

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P. G. Wodehouse


Surname pronounced "wood-house"; born Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, October 15, 1881, in Guildford, Surrey, England; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1955; died of a heart attack, February 14, 1975, in Southampton, NY; son of Henry Ernest (a civil servant and judge) and Eleanor (Deane) Wodehouse; married Ethel Rowley, September 30, 1914; children: Leonora (stepdaughter). Education: Attended Dulwich College, 1894-1900.


Novelist, short story writer, and playwright. Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, London, England, clerk, 1901-03; London Globe, London, assistant on "By the Way" column, 1902-03, writer of column, 1903-09; freelance writer, under various pseudonyms; Vanity Fair, drama critic, 1915-19.


Dramatists Guild, Authors League of America, Old Alleynian Association (New York, NY; president), Coffee House (New York, NY).

Awards, Honors

Oxford University, 1939; named knight commander, Order of the British Empire, 1975.


A Prefect's Uncle, A & C Black (London, England), 1903, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1924.

The Head of Kay's, A & C Black (London, England), 1905, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1922.

Love among the Chickens, George Newnes (London, England), 1906, Circle Publishing (New York, NY), 1909, revised edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1921, autograph edition, 1963.

The White Feather, A & C Black (London, England), 1907, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1922.

(With A. W. Westbrook) Not George Washington, Cassell (New York, NY), 1907.

The Swoop!; or, How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion, Alston Rivers (London, England), 1909.

Mike: A Public School Story, two parts, A & C Black (London, England), 1909, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1924, revised edition of second part published as Enter Psmith, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1935, entire book published in two volumes as Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith, Jenkins (London, England), 1953.

The Intrusion of Jimmy, W. J. Watt (New York, NY), 1910, (published as A Gentleman of Leisure, Alston Rivers (London, England), 1910, abridged edition, George Newnes (London, England), 1920, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1962.

Psmith in the City, A & C Black (London, England), 1910.

The Prince and Betty, W. J. Watt (New York, NY), 1912, published as Psmith, Journalist, A & C Black (London, England), 1915.

The Little Nugget, Metheun (London, England), 1913, W. J. Watt (New York, NY), 1914, published with a new preface by the author, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1972, Viking (New York, NY), reprinted, 1991.

Something New, Appleton (New York, NY), 1915, published as Something Fresh, Methuen (London, England), 1915.

Uneasy Money, Appleton (New York, NY), 1916.

Piccadilly Jim, Dodd (New York, NY), 1917, revised edition, 1931, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1966.

A Damsel in Distress, Doran (New York, NY), 1919, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

Their Mutual Child, Boni & Liveright (New York, NY), 1919, published as The Coming of Bill, Jenkins (London, England), 1920, autograph edition, 1966.

The Little Warrior, Doran (New York, NY), 1920, published as Jill the Reckless, Jenkins (London, England), 1921, autograph edition, 1958.

Three Men and a Maid, Doran (New York, NY), 1922, published as The Girl on the Boat, Jenkins (London, England), 1922, autograph edition, 1956.

The Adventures of Sally, Jenkins (London, England), 1922, published as Mostly Sally, Doran (New York, NY), 1923.

Leave It to Psmith, Jenkins (London, England), 1923, Doran (New York, NY), 1924, autograph edition, 1961.

Bill the Conqueror: His Invasion of England in the Springtime, Metheun (London, England), 1924, Doran (New York, NY), 1925.

Sam in the Suburbs, Doran (New York, NY), 1925, published as Sam the Sudden, Methuen (London, England), 1925, with a new preface by the author, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1972, Penguin (New York, NY), 1978.

The Small Bachelor (based on Wodehouse's play Oh! Lady, Lady!; also see below), Doran (New York, NY), 1927.

Money for Nothing, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1928, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1959.

Fish Preferred, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1929, published as Summer Lightning, Jenkins (London, England), 1929, autograph edition, 1964.

Big Money, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1931, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1965.

If I Were You, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1931, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1958.

Doctor Sally, Methuen (London, England), 1932.

Hot Water, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1932, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

Heavy Weather, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1933, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1960.

Thank You, Jeeves, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1934, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

Brinkley Manor, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1934, published as Right Ho, Jeeves, Jenkins (London, England), 1934, autograph edition, 1957.

Trouble Down at Tudsleigh, International Magazine Co., 1935.

The Luck of the Bodkins, Jenkins (London, England), 1935, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1936, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

Laughing Gas, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1936, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1959.

Summer Moonshine, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1937, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

The Code of the Woosters, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1938, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1962.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1939, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1962.

Quick Service, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1940, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1960.

Money in the Bank, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1942.

Joy in the Morning, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1946, with a new preface by the author, Jenkins (London, England), 1974, published as Jeeves in the Morning, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1983.

Full Moon, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1947.

Spring Fever, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1948.

Uncle Dynamite, Jenkins (London, England), 1948.

The Mating Season, Didier (New York, NY), 1949.

The Old Reliable, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1951.

Angel Cake (based on the play The Butter and Egg Man by George F. Kaufman), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1952, published as Barmy in Wonderland, Jenkins (London, England), 1952, autograph edition, 1958.

Pigs Have Wings, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1952, with a new preface by the author, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1974, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

Ring for Jeeves, Jenkins (London, England), 1953, autograph edition, 1963, published as The Return of Jeeves, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1954.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Jenkins (London, England), 1954, published as Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1955.

French Leave, Jenkins (London, England), 1956, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1959, with a new preface by the author, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1974.

The Butler Did It, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1957, published as Something Fishy, Jenkins (London, England), 1957.

Cocktail Time, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1958.

How Right You Are, Jeeves, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1960, published as Jeeves in the Offing, Jenkins (London, England), 1960.

Ice in the Bedroom, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1961.

Service with a Smile, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1961.

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1963.

Biffen's Millions, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1964, published as Frozen Assets, Jenkins (London, England), 1964.

The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood: A Blandings Castle Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1965, published as Galahad at Blandings, Jenkins (London, England), 1965.

The Purloined Paperweight, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1967, published as Company for Henry, Jenkins (London, England), 1967.

Do Butlers Burgle Banks?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1968.

A Pelican at Blandings, Jenkins (London, England), 1969, published as No Nudes Is Good Nudes, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1970.

The Girl in Blue, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1970, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1971.

Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1971, published as Much Obliged, Jeeves, autograph edition, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1971.

Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkins, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1972, published as The Plot That Thickened, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1973.

Bachelors Anonymous, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1973, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974.

The Cat-Nappers: A Jeeves and Bertie Story, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974, published as Aunts Aren't Gentlemen: A Jeeves and Bertie Story, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1974.

Sunset at Blandings, Chatto & Windus, 1977, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1978.

Life with Jeeves, Viking (New York, NY), 1983.

The World of Jeeves, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1988.


The Pothunters and Other School Stories, A & C Black (London, England), 1902, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1924.

Tales of St. Austin's, A & C Black (London, England), 1903, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1923.

The Gold Bat, and Other School Stories, A & C Black (London, England), 1904, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1923.

The Man Upstairs and Other Stories, Methuen (London, England), 1914, with a new preface by the author, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1971, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

The Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories, Methuen (London, England), 1917, A. L. Burt (Chicago, IL), 1933.

My Man Jeeves, George Newnes (London, England), 1919, published as Carry on, Jeeves, Jenkins (London, England), 1925, autograph edition, 1960.

The Indiscretions of Archie, Doran (New York, NY), 1921.

The Clicking of Cuthbert, Jenkins (London, England), 1922, autograph edition, 1956, published as Golf without Tears, Doran (New York, NY), 1924.

Jeeves, Doran (New York, NY), 1923, (published as The Inimitable Jeeves, Jenkins (London, England), 1923, autograph edition, 1956.

Ukridge, Jenkins (London, England), 1924, autograph edition, 1960, published as He Rather Enjoyed It, Doran (New York, NY), 1926.

The Heart of a Goof, Jenkins (London, England), 1926, autograph edition, 1956, revised edition, Classics of Golf (Stamford, CT), 1990, published as Divots, Doran (New York, NY), 1927.

Meet Mr. Mulliner, Jenkins (London, England), 1927, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1928, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1956.

Mr. Mulliner Speaking, Jenkins (London, England), 1929, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1930, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1961.

Very Good, Jeeves, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1930, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1958.

A Prince for Hire (novella; originally serialized in The Illustrated Love Magazine), 1931, Galahad Books (London, England), 2003.

Mulliner Nights, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1932, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1966.

Blandings Castle, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1935, published as Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, Jenkins (London, England), 1935, autograph edition, 1957.

Young Men in Spats, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1936, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1957.

The Crime Wave at Blandings, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1937, published as Lord Emsworth and Others, Jenkins (London, England), 1937, autograph edition, 1956.

Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1940, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1963.

Dudley Is Back to Normal, Doubleday, Doran (Garden City, NY), 1940.

Nothing Serious, Jenkins (London, England), 1950, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1951, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1964.

Selected Stories, introduction by John W. Aldridge, Modern Library (New York, NY), 1958.

A Few Quick Ones, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1959.

Plum Pie, Jenkins (London, England), 1966, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1967.

Jeeves, Jeeves, Jeeves, Avon (New York, NY), 1976.

The Swoop and Other Stories, edited by David A. Jasen, foreword by Malcolm Muggeridge, Seabury (New York, NY), 1979.

The World of Mr. Mulliner, Taplinger (New York, NY), 1985.

Tales from the Drones Club, International Polygonics (New York, NY), 1991.

The Golf Omnibus, Bonanza Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Uncollected Wodehouse, edited by D. A. Jasen, foreword by M. Muggeridge, International Polygonics (New York, NY), 1992.

Enter Jeeves: Fifteen Early Stories, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 1997.


(With John Stapleton) A Gentleman of Leisure (comedy; based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title), first produced on Broadway, 1911.

(With John Stapleton) A Thief for the Night, first produced on Broadway, 1913.

(With H. W. Westbrook) Brother Alfred, first produced in West End, 1913.

The Play's the Thing (three-act drama; based on Spiel in Schloss by Ferenc Molnar; first produced on Broadway, 1926), Brentano's, 1927.

(With Valerie Wyngate) Her Cardboard Lover (based on a play by Jacques Deval), first produced in New York, NY, 1927.

Good Morning, Bill (three-act comedy; based on a play by Ladislaus Fodor; first produced in West End, 1927), Methuen (London, England), 1928.

(With Ian Hay) A Damsel in Distress (three-act comedy; based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title; first produced Off-Broadway, 1928), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1930.

(With Ian Hay) Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (three-act comedy; first produced Off-Broadway, 1929), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1930.

Candlelight (three-act drama; based on Kleine Komodie by Siegfried Geyer; first produced in New York, NY, 1929), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1934.

(With Ian Hay) Leave It to Psmith (three-act comedy; based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title; first produced in London, England, 1930), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1932.

(With Guy Bolton) Who's Who (three-act comedy), first produced in West End, 1934.

The Inside Stand (three-act farce), first produced in London, England, 1935.

(With Guy Bolton) Don't Listen, Ladies (two-act comedy; based on the play N'ecoutez pas, mesdames, by Sacha Guitry), first produced on Broadway, 1948.

(With Guy Bolton) Carry On, Jeeves (three-act comedy; based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title), Evans Brothers, 1956.


(Author of lyrics with others) The Gay Gordons, book by Seymour Hicks, music by Guy Jones, first produced in London, England, 1913.

(With C. H. Bovill and F. Tours) Nuts and Wine, first produced in London, England, 1914.

(With Guy Bolton and H. Reynolds) Miss Spring-time, music by Emmerich Kalman and Jerome Kern, first produced in New York, NY, 1916.

(With Guy Bolton) Ringtime, first produced in New York, 1917.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Have a Heart, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in New York, NY, 1917.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Oh, Boy, first produced in New York, NY, 1917, produced in London, England, as Oh, Joy, 1919.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Leave It to Jane (musical version of The College Widow by George Ade) music by Jerome Kern, first produced in Albany, NY, then on Broadway, 1917.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) The Riviera Girl, music by Emmerich Kalman, first produced in New York, NY, 1917.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Miss 1917, music by Victor Herbert and Jerome Kern, first produced Off-Broadway, 1917.

(With Guy Bolton) The Second Century Show, first produced in New York, 1917.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Oh! Lady, Lady!, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in New York, NY, 1918.

(With Guy Bolton) See You Later, music by J. Szule, first produced in Baltimore, MD, 1918.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) The Girl behind the Gun (based on play Madame et son filleul, by Hennequin and Weber), music by Ivan Caryll, first produced in New York, NY, 1918, produced in London, England, as Kissing Time at Winter Garden Theatre, 1918.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Oh My Dear, music by Louis Hirsch, first produced in New York, NY, 1918, produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as Ask Dad, 1918.

(With Guy Bolton) The Rose of China, music by Armand Vecsey, first produced in New York, NY, 1919.

(Author of lyrics with Clifford Grey) Sally, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in New York by Flo Ziegfeld, 1920.

(Author of book and lyrics with Fred Thompson) The Golden Moth, music by Ivor Novello, first produced in London, England, 1921.

(Author of book and lyrics with George Grossmith) The Cabaret Girl, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in London, England, 1922.

(Author of book and lyrics with George Grossmith) The Beauty Prize, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in London, England, 1923.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) Sitting Pretty, music by Jerome Kern, first produced in New York, NY, 1924.

(Adapter with Laurie Wylie) Hearts and Diamonds (light opera; based on The Orlov by Biuno Granichstaedten and Ernest Marischka; first produced in London, England, 1926), English lyrics by Graham John, Keith Prowse & Co., 1926.

(Author of book with Guy Bolton) Oh Kay!, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, music by George Gershwin, first produced on Broadway, 1926.

(With others) Showboat, music by Oscar Hammerstein, first produced on Broadway, 1927.

(Author of book and lyrics with Guy Bolton) The Nightingale, music by Armand Vecsey, first produced on Broadway, 1927.

(Author of lyrics with Ira Gershwin) Rosalie, book by Guy Bolton and Bill McGuire, music by George Gershwin and Sigmund Romberg, first produced in New York, NY, 1928.

(Author of book with Grossmith; author of lyrics with Grey) The Three Musketeers (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas; first produced in New York, NY, 1928), music by Rudolph Frinil, Harms Inc., 1937.

(Author of book with Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay, and Russel Crouse) Anything Goes (first produced on Broadway, 1934), music and lyrics by Cole Porter, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1936.


(Coauthor) A Damsel in Distress (based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title), RKO General, Inc., 1920.

Rosalie (based on Wodehouse's play of the same title), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 1930.

Also author of Summer Lightning, based on Wodehouse's novel of the same title, and Three French Girls.


(Adapter) William Tell Told Again (based on the classic tale), A & C Black (London, England), 1904.

(With H. W. Westbrook) The Globe "By the Way" Book: A Literary Quick-Lunch for People Who Have Only Got Five Minutes to Spare, Globe (London, England), 1908, edited by W. K. Haselden, Heineman (New York, NY), 1985.

Louder and Funnier (essays), Faber (London, England), 1932, autograph edition, Jenkins (London, England), 1963.

(Editor) A Century of Humour, Hutchinson (London, England), 1934.

(Editor with Scott Meredith and author of introduction) The Week-End Book of Humour, Washburn, 1952, published as P. G. Wodehouse Selects the Best of Humor, Grosset (New York, NY), 1965.

(Editor with Scott Meredith and author of introduction) The Best of Modern Humour, Metcalf, 1952.

Performing Flea: A Self-Portrait in Letters (correspondence with William Townsend), introduction by Townsend, Jenkins (London, England), 1953, published as Author! Author!, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1962.

(With Guy Bolton) Bring on the Girls!: The Improbable Story of Our Life in Musical Comedy with Pictures to Prove It, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1953.

America, I Like You, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1956, revised edition published as Over Seventy: An Autobiography with Digressions, Jenkins (London, England), 1957.

(Editor with Scott Meredith and author of introduction) A Carnival of Modern Humor, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1967.

Most of P. G. Wodehouse, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1969.

Wodehouse on Wodehouse (contains Performing Flea, Bring on the Girls!, and Over Seventy), Hutchinson (London, England), 1980.

The Great Sermon Handicap, photographs by William Hewison, James H. Heineman (New York, NY), 1983, published as The Great Sermon Handicap, Volume 1: Rendered in English, Phonetic English, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Rumanian, and Rhaetomansch, 1989, Volume 2: Rendered in English, Phonetic English, Chaucerian English, Dutch, Flemish, Afrikaans, Frisian, German Mittelhochdeutsch, Plattdeutsch, Luxemburgian, Yiddish, Schiwzerdeutsch, 1990, Volume 3: Rendered in English, Phonetic English, Danish, Swedish, Old Norse, Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, 1991, Volume 4: Rendered in English, Phonetic English, Esperanto, Pidgin English, French Creole, Papiamento, Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, Romany, Welsh, Breton, Irish, Gaelic, 1992, Volume 4: Rendered in English, Phonetic English, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, 1993, Volume 5: Afro-Asiatic or Hamito-Semitic Languages, 1993.

Nuggets, edited by Richard Osborne, Heineman (New York, NY), 1983.

Fore! The Best of Wodehouse on Golf, edited by D. R. Bensen, Ticknor & Fields (New York, NY), 1985.

A Wodehouse Bestiary, edited by D. R. Bensen, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1985.

Life at Blandings, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.

What's in Wodehouse?; or, Jeeves Has Gone-a-Shrimping and Bertie Is in the Soup: A Quiz Book, edited by Charles E. Gould, Heineman (New York, NY), 1989.

Yours, Plum (letters), Heineman (New York, NY), 1990.

Wodehouse on Crime, International Polygonics (New York, NY), 1990.

Wodehouse Is the Best Medicine, International Polygonics (New York, NY), 1992.

Week-end Wodehouse, Trafalgar Square (North Pomfret, VT), 1993.

What Ho!: The Best of P. G. Wodehouse, introduction by Stephen Fry, Penguin (New York, NY), 2001.

P. G. Wodehouse, in His Own Words, edited by Barry Day and Tony Ring, Hutchinson (London, England), 2001.

The Complete Lyrics of P. G. Wodehouse, edited by Barry Day, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2004.

Also author of Plum's Peaches, International Polygonics (New York, NY).


Several of Wodehouse's novels were adapted by Edward Duke into a play, Jeeves Takes Charge, c. 1984. Some of Wodehouse's short stories were produced by the BBC under the title Wodehouse Playhouse; P. G.'s Other Profession, a musical revue featuring theatrical songs of Wodehouse, premiered in 2002 as part of the New York Festival of Song.


Best known for his many stories concerning the young Bertie Wooster and Bertie's erstwhile valet, Jeeves, British writer P. G. Wodehouse is considered a master of English humor and a powerful influence on many later writers. Praised by such literary lights as Ogden Nash and Evelyn Waugh during his lifetime, Wodehouse was described by British writer and contemporary Hilaire Belloc as "the best writer in English now alive," in Belloc's 1939 radio broadcast. Even before his death in 1975, Wodehouse had gained a cult following, and his stories have been adapted for television on several occasions. In addition to ninety-six novels, Wodehouse penned lyrics to over two dozen musicals, authored sixteen plays, and produced three hundred short stories. As a Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography essayist wrote, "It is … abundantly clear that Wodehouse is one of the funniest and most productive men who ever wrote English. He is far from being a mere jokesmith: he is an authentic craftsman, a wit and humorist of the first water, the inventor of a prose style which is a kind of comic poetry."

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born on October 15, 1881, in Guildford, England, the son of Henry Ernest Wodehouse, a British civil servant, and Eleanor Deane. Suffering silently under the childhood nickname "Plum" well into adulthood, Wodehouse developed his whimsical imagination as a child due to the lack of attention paid to him by his distracted parents. Educated at Dulwich College, London, Wodehouse discovered he was unable to transfer to Oxford University due to a shortage in family funds. Resorting to a job at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in order to support himself, he also penned a number of short stories and articles during his tenure there before turning to full-time writing. Wodehouse began working as a columnist for the Globe in 1903, and shortly thereafter he made his first journey to the United States. Falling in love with America, he began traveling regularly across the Atlantic, getting his big break in 1914 when the Saturday Evening Post serialized his novel Something Fresh. While most of his stories take place on English soil, many critics agree that most of Wodehouse's best fiction was written while the writer was living in the United States. Indeed, he became an American citizen in 1955.

With his increasing income gained as a working writer, Wodehouse was able to attain the financial security that his family had been unable to provide during his youth. Interestingly, much of Wodehouse's writing draws from the British upper-class culture to which his parents likely aspired; country homes, house servants, men's clubs, and a surfeit of leisure time all feature prominently in his story plots. The chivalric ideal common to British society prior to World War I is also clearly present; in fact, Wodehouse's bumbling heroes often get into the worst predicaments while attempting to come to the rescue of a damsel in distress or other person in need.

Married in 1914, Wodehouse gained a stepdaughter as well as a wife, Ethel, with whom he would often travel—accompanied by his beloved Pekingese—for much of his adult life. Wodehouse's love of traveling became the cause of a set of circumstances that threatened to derail his career during World War II. Finding himself in France when the French government capitulated to Nazi Germany, Wodehouse naively accepted an invitation to visit Berlin, Germany. The major controversy ensued following a series of five talks he gave on Nazi radio in July of 1941, while temporarily a captive of the Nazi Reich. While many viewed his comments as humorous, others accused him of being sympathetic to Hitler; of having been on the Nazi payroll in a lucrative job for Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels; or of having spent the war in luxurious hotels in Berlin and Paris, all expenses paid by the Nazis. As Ian Sproat noted in the Times Literary Supplement, in both Great Britain and the United States "he was denounced as a traitor, a coward, a collaborator and a Nazi sympathizer." In fact, Wodehouse's books were even removed from library shelves in several communities. Although documents released in the late 1990s showed that Wodehouse was simply engaging in his characteristic lighthearted humor, some have remained convinced that he was, as Sprout explained "a traitor, a spy, a sinister character … of extreme right wing views." Despite a storm of accusations leveled at the Pekingese-loving author, his popularity remains undiminished.

Recalls a World before War

The world Wodehouse created in his writings may, at times, seem strange and somewhat dated to the modern reader. Wodehouse, it must be remembered, was born in Victorian England. He was a member of the Beefsteak Club while Rudyard Kipling was still a member (he became a correspondent of Kipling's), and as a boy he read the works of many of the great nineteenth-century writers as they were published. As Rogers commented in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "Wodehouse is an anomaly in twentieth-century fiction. In an age of relentless artistic experimentation, he wrote fiction firmly rooted in the Edwardian world of his childhood. In an age whose mood was decidedly serious, he wrote fiction designed solely for amusement. And in an age of artistic angst and alienation, for nearly eighty years Wodehouse wrote novels and short stories that succeeded in pleasing his readers, his critics, and himself."

In an age of rapidly changing moral and sexual values, Wodehouse also created characters and situations remarkable for honing to the Victorian standards of purity and innocence. Sexual innuendo is absent in his body of work; indeed, the closest he comes to acknowledging any sort of intimate relationship between the sexes appears in Thank You, Jeeves, when Bertie describes an unsettling evening in which a former girlfriend was discovered lounging in his bed. "The attitude of fellows towards finding girls in their bedroom shortly after midnight varies," noted the sagacious Wooster. "Some like it. Some don't. I didn't."

The characters in Wodehouse's world are thoroughly unique. Easily his most famous characters are Wooster and the all-knowing valet Jeeves, who first appear in the story "Extricating Young Gussie," which Wodehouse wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. In this story Bertie is the main character, while Jeeves is relegated to a minor role. Seeing the potential for humor, Wodehouse expanded the valet's role in "The Artistic Career of Corky," a story in which Jeeves comes to the aid of Bertie and his friend Corky when they land in hot water. Though Wodehouse went on to feature Jeeves prominently in several stories and novels, the author stated in the introduction to his Jeeves Omnibus: "I still blush to think of the off-hand way I treated him at our first encounter."

Jeeves is no mere butler; he is a valet or, as the character himself puts it, a "gentleman's personal gentleman." In addition to the duties normally performed by a butler, a gentleman's gentleman is responsible for the running of the entire household as well as such things as his employer's dress and daily schedule. Jeeves, unlike most valets, is also entrusted with the task of saving the lives of Bertie and his numerous scheming accomplices from time to time. In his book The Comic Style of P. G. Wodehouse, Robert A. Hall called Jeeves "one of the most memorable characters invented in twentieth-century English-language fiction. His head sticks out at the back, and he eats a great deal of fish, which to Bertie's way of thinking makes him so brainy. His favorite reading is Spinoza, or else the great Russian novelists. His range of knowledge is encyclopaedic, so that he can furnish information or give an extempore lecture on almost every subject."

Bertie, for his part, may be seen as the most outstanding example of a long line of irresponsible young gentlemen characterized by Wodehouse, or, as Voorhees phrased it, the "crowning achievement in the creation of the silly young ass," and "one of literature's idiots." While there can be little doubt as to Bertie's lack of intelligence (he readily admits it; in one of the stories in My Man Jeeves, when Jeeves says, "We must think, sir," Bertie replies, "You do it. I don't have the equipment."), he remains one of Wodehouse's most personable and engaging characters. He is extremely good natured and gregarious, always ready for a dinner party or a weekend at one of his aunts' country houses. Although he is presumably in his late twenties, he persists in childish schemes that invariably backfire, leaving his salvation, time and again, in the hands of Jeeves. Bertie lives by the strict "Code of the Woosters" which compels him never to let a pal down. As a result he is at the mercy of an endless supply of old school chums and girlfriends who entreat him to rescue them from a variety of sticky situations.

The Wodehouse Formula

In the early short stories featuring Jeeves and Bertie, the young master gets himself into a variety of scrapes from which it becomes necessary for the wise valet to extricate him, including a few accidental engagements to young ladies to whom he is particularly unsuited. But beginning with the first novel in which they are the main characters, Hall pointed out, "the emphasis changes, and Bertie's efforts to avoid marriage become the main-spring of the plot. Florence Craye appears (in Joy in the Morning) as one of the threats to his bachelordom; but there are others as well." As Hall noted, "This essential situa-tion is repeated in each one of the later Bertie-Jeeves novels, with marriage to either Pauline Stoker (in Thank You, Jeeves), Madeline Bassett, or the redhaired hellion Bobbie Wickham (in Jeeves in the Offing) as a major threat."

Bertie and Jeeves are not Wodehouse's only popular characters, however: also in the ranks are Psmith, Mr. Mulliner, and the stately Lord Emsworth, whose life alternates between his home at Blandings Castle and a comfortable chair at the Drones Club and is documented in the novels Summer Lightning and Summer Moonshine, published in 1929 and 1937 respectively. Wodehouse also penned several stories about the sport of golf, in which the venerable "Oldest Member" tells golfing stories that relate to the predicaments that the younger players bring into him at the clubhouse. These "Oldest Member" stories have been collected in books such as the 1991 collection The Golf Omnibus.

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Wodehousian Style

As a result of his distinctive writing, many critics have labeled Wodehouse the dominant force in the establishment of modern humorous fiction technique. According to Christopher Hitchens in the Atlantic Monthly, the author's "attention to language, his near faultless ability to come up with names that are at once ludicrous and credible, and the intricacies of his plotting are imperishable."

Hall, in The Comic Style of P. G. Wodehouse, mentioned Wodehouse's inventive word formations, such as adding and subtracting prefixes and suffixes. "To de-dog the premises is not too great a variation on the pattern of de-louse or de-bunk; but Wodehouse obtains a greater humorous effect by prefixing de- to proper names, as when Pongo Twistleton brings the housemaid Elsie Bean out of a cupboard [in Uncle Dynamite]: 'His manner as he de-Beaned the cupboard was somewhat distrait.'

Wodehouse stretches the patterns of word formations and meanings beyond their normal limits: a cowpuncher punches cows and corn-chandler chandles corn. He is also prone to separate some words, such as hobnob, into their constituent elements. Thus in Uncle Dynamite a character says, "To offer a housemaid a cigarette is not hobbing. Nor, when you light it for her, does that constitute nobbing." The misunderstandings with which he peppers his Jeeves and Bertie stories are often grounded in verbal confusions. Even though Bertie is supposedly a graduate of Eton and Oxford, his vocabulary is extremely limited, and he spends a good deal of time groping for the right word. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit contains one of the many instances in which Bertie depends on Jeeves to fill in the blank: "Let a plug ugly like young Thos loose in the community with a cosh, and you are inviting disaster and … what's the word? Something about cats." Jeeves replies, "Cataclysms, sir?" Puns also make frequent appearances in Wodehouse's work. In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Bertie is released from jail and is asked, "Are you all right, now?" he replies, "Well, I have a pinched look."

If you enjoy the works of P. G. Wodehouse

If you enjoy the works of P. G. Wodehouse, you may also want to check out the following books:

John Mortimer, Rumpole of the Bailey, 1978.

Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, 1987.

Ogden Nash, Candy Is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash, 1994.

Wodehouse's most widely known stylistic device is his use of metaphor and simile. In Leave It to Psmith, for example, he writes, "A sound like two or three pigs feeding rather noisily in the middle of a thunderstorm interrupted his meditation."

Theatrical Success

In addition to publishing over ninety novels during his lengthy and prolific career, Wodehouse also wrote successfully for the stage, especially in musi-cal comedy. He authored plays with Guy Bolton, penned librettos for musicals, and composed the words for the music of Jerome Kern. "The Kern-Bolton-Wodehouse team set new standards for musical comedy," noted John H. Rogers in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Yet Wodehouse is best remembered for his humorous works. As the Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography contributor remarked, "For the comic novels and short stories he invented his best plots, created his best characters, and perfected his style. Wodehouse is one of the most ingenious plotters in the history of comic writing."

Wodehouse's linguistic brilliance, his deft handling of the English language, and his humorous observations on human nature combined to make him one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century. Though his works did not find much favor with literary critics, they were highly regarded by his peers. As P. M. W. Thody remarked in the Dictionary of American Biography, "Few writers have been more appreciated by their fellow professionals than Wodehouse. In 1930, prefacing Week-end Wodehouse, Hilaire Belloc described him as 'the best living writer in England, the head of my profession.'" The author himself was more modest about his gifts. As Wodehouse wrote in his autobiographical Over Seventy, "My books may not be the sort of books the cognoscenti feel justified in blowing the twelve and a half shillings on, but I do work at them. When in due course Charon ferries me across the Styx and everyone is telling everyone else what a rotten writer I was, I hope at least one voice will be heard piping up: 'But he did take trouble.'"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Aldridge, John W., Time to Murder and Create, McKay (New York, NY), 1966.

Cazalet-Keir, Thelma, editor, Homage to P. G. Wodehouse, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1973.

Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, Volume 6: Modern Writers, 1914-1945, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.

Connolly, Joseph, P. G. Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography, with Complete Bibliography and Collector's Guide, Orbis (London, England), 1979.

Connolly, Joseph, P. G. Wodehouse, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1987.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 10, 1979, Volume 22, 1982.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 34: British Novelists, 1890-1929: Traditionalists, 1985, Volume 162: British Short-Fiction Writers, 1915-1945, 1996.

Donaldson, Frances, P. G. Wodehouse: A Biography, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.

Edwards, Owen Dudley, P. G. Wodehouse: A Critical and Historical Essay, M. Brian & O'Keeffe (London, England), 1977.

French, R. B. D., P. G. Wodehouse, Oliver & Boyd (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1966.

Green, Benny, P. G. Wodehouse: A Literary Biography, Rutledge Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Hall, Robert A., Jr., The Comic Style of P. G. Wodehouse, Archon (Hamden, CT), 1974.

Heineman, James H., and Donald R. Benson, editors, P. G. Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration, 1881-1981, Pierpoint Morgan Library (New York, NY), 1981.

Jaggard, Geoffrey W., Wooster's World, Macdonald & Co. (London, England), 1967.

Jaggard, Geoffrey W., Blandings the Blest and the Blue Blood, Macdonald & Co. (London, England), 1968.

Jasen, David A., A Bibliography and Reader's Guide to the First Editions of P. G. Wodehouse, Archon (Hamden, CT), 1970.

Jasen, David A., P. G. Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master, Mason & Lipscomb (New York, NY), 1974.

McCrum, Robert, P. G. Wodehouse: A Life, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.

Orwell, George, The Orwell Reader, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1933.

Short Story Criticism, Volume 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.

Sproat, Iain, Wodehouse at War, Ticknor & Fields (New York, NY), 1981.

Usborne, Richard, Wodehouse at Work, Jenkins (London, England), 1961.

Usborne, Richard, Wodehouse Nuggets, Hutchinson (London, England), 1983.

Usborne, Richard, After Hours with P. G. Wodehouse, Heineman (New York, NY), 1991.

Voorhees, Richard, P. G. Wodehouse, Twayne (New York, NY), 1966.

Wind, H. W., The World of P. G. Wodehouse, Praeger (New York, NY), 1972.

Wodehouse, P. G., Performing Flea: A Self-Portrait in Letters, Jenkins (London, England), 1953.

Wodehouse, P. G., and Guy Bolton, Bring On the Girls!: The Improbable Story of Our Life in Musical Comedy with Pictures to Prove It, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1953.

Wodehouse, P. G., Over Seventy: An Autobiography with Digressions, Jenkins (London, England), 1957.


Atlantic Monthly, November, 2004, Christopher Hitchens, "The Honorable Schoolboy," pp. 136-142.

Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1981.

Economist, September 22, 1990, p. 100.

Georgia Review, Volume 16, 1962.

Library Journal, February 1, 1994, p. 128; June 1, 1994, p. 188; December, 1994, p. 155; January, 1995, p. 162; April 15, 1995, p. 120; May 1, 1995, p. 150; November 1, 1995, p. 126; November 15, 1995, p. 119; December, 1995, p. 182; March 15, 1996, p. 112.

National Review, December 11, 1995, p. 132.

New Criterion, October, 2000, Roger Kimball, "The Genius of Wodehouse," p. 5.

Newsweek, December 5, 1988, p. 57.

New York, July 24, 1995, p. 43.

New Yorker, May 22, 1948; May 22, 1989, p. 94.

New York Times, February 15, 1975; October 18, 1981; November 12, 1984; November 7, 1985; October 20, 1987; March 23, 1989.

New York Times Book Review, April 28, 1991, p. 17.

Paris Review, winter, 1975.

South Atlantic Quarterly, Volume 61, 1962.

Sports Illustrated, May 29, 1995, p. C9.

Times (London, England), November 24, 1983; June 21, 1984; June 29, 1985; July 9, 1987.

Times Literary Supplement, October 29, 1999, Ian Sprout, "In all Innocence: The Truth about P. G. Wodehouse and the Nazis."

Wall Street Journal, May 2, 1996, p. A13.

Washington Post, February 3, 1984.

Washington Post Book World, November 29, 1981.

Writers Digest, October, 1971.

Wodehouse, P. G.

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P. G. Wodehouse

BORN: 1881, Guildford, England

DIED: 1975, Southampton, New York

NATIONALITY: English, American

GENRE: Fiction, drama

Piccadilly Jim (1918)
Mulliner Nights (1933)
Thank You, Jeeves (1934)
Blandings Castle (1935)
Young Men in Spats (1936)


P. G. Wodehouse (pronounced like “Woodhouse”) is an anomaly in twentieth-century fiction. In an age of relentless artistic experimentation, he wrote fiction firmly rooted in the Edwardian world of his childhood. In an age of rapidly changing moral and sexual values, he created characters and situations remarkable for their purity and innocence. In an age of seriousness, he wrote fiction designed solely for amusement. In an age of artistic anxiety and alienation, Wodehouse wrote novels and short stories that succeeded in pleasing his readers, his critics, and himself.

Works in Biographical and Historical Context

A Dulwich Impression Pelham Grenville Wode-house was born on October 15, 1881, the third of four sons of Henry Ernest Wodehouse, a member of the British civil service in Hong Kong, and Eleanor Deane Wode-house, the daughter of Rev. Deane of Bath. Sent back to England for schooling in 1884 with his older brothers, Wodehouse began his education at Bath. Wodehouse told Paris Review interviewer Gerald Clarke, “I was writing stories when I was five. I don't remember what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.” Wodehouse attended Elizabeth College in Guernsey before enrolling in Malvern House, a navy preparatory school, in Kearnsey. His most important educational experience began at the age of twelve when he began attending Dulwich College, where he studied for six years. During his last year there, he received his first payment for writing “Some Aspects of Game Captaincy,” an essay that was a contest entry published in the Public School Magazine. Wodehouse recognized the important influence of Dulwich College on his life and later wrote to friend Charles Townsend that “the years between 1896 and 1900 seem[ed] like Heaven” to him.

Oxford Detour Wodehouse could not proceed to Oxford University—the usual path for a boy of his background—because his father's pension was paid in rupees, the value of which fell so drastically at the time that the family could not afford another son at the university, even if a scholarship had been available. Wodehouse already knew he wanted to write and suggested that he become a freelance writer, but his father would not hear of such impracticality. Wodehouse became a clerk at the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, a training post for those to be sent to the Far East. His time as a clerk proved not entirely unproductive: During his tenure at the bank he sold eighty stories and articles, primarily sports-related articles for the Public School Magazine.

American Humor Wodehouse always recalled that a “total inability to grasp what was going on made me something of a legend” in the bank, and he soon entered the more congenial profession of journalism. He was first a substitute writer for the “By the Way” column in The Globe, and byAugust 1903 he was employed full-time by the paper. Fascinated with boxers and wanting to meet James J. Corbett and other fighters, Wodehouse fulfilled a longtime ambition by making his first trip to America, arriving in New York in 1904. After a short stay, he returned to England as editor of the “By the Way” column, but his love for America, and for the possibilities he felt it promised writers, remained with him. In a 1915 New York Times interview with Joyce Kilmer, Wodehouse predicted that the years following World War I would “afford a great opportunity for the new English humorist who works on the American plan.”

Wodehouse eventually seized this opportunity and exploited it so well that years later one reviewer of Young Men in Spats (1936) remarked that Wodehouse was “the only Englishman who can make an American laugh at a joke about America.” The reviewer reasoned that the real secret of Wodehouse's American popularity was that he really liked Americans. One American whom Wodehouse particularly liked was Ethel Newton Rowley, a widow with one child named Leonora. Wodehouse had met Ethel on one of his visits to America, and he married her on September 30, 1914.

Minor Hollywood Scandal In 1904, Wodehouse ventured into theatrical writing when Owen Hall asked him to compose lyrics for a song in the show Sergeant Bruce. Wodehouse responded with “Put Me in My Little Cell,” sung by three crooks. In 1906 Sir Seymour Hicks hired Wodehouse as lyricist for his Aldwych Theatre shows, the first of which, The Beauty of Bath, also marked his initial collaboration with Jerome Kern. When Kern introduced Wodehouse to Guy Bolton in 1915, the three men shared ideas about a new kind of musical comedy and decided to join forces to create what became known as the Princess Theatre shows. The Kern-Bolton-Wodehouse team set new standards for musical comedy.

Throughout the 1920s Wodehouse's work as a journalist, lyricist, and fiction writer made him increasingly famous and wealthy, and his success inevitably attracted the attention of Hollywood. In 1930, after being subjected to the typically shrewd business negotiations of Ethel Wodehouse, Samuel Goldwyn offered Wodehouse two thousand dollars a week for six months, with a further six-month option. Wodehouse's contribution amounted to little more than adding a few lines to already-completed scripts, and this caused him to tell an interviewer for the Los Angeles Times that “They paid me $2000 a week—$104,000—and I cannot see what they engaged me for. They were extremely nice to me, but I feel as if I cheated them.”

Wodehouse's remarks caused a minor scandal and were said to have caused New York banks to examine studio expenditures more closely. That he actually negatively impacted Hollywood finance seems doubtful, especially since three years after the Los Angeles Times interview, he was asked to return to Hollywood. His final film project in 1937 was not a success, and that year Wodehouse left Hollywood for good. Film scripts constitute the only type of writing Wodehouse attempted without success, but the Hollywood experience did give him abundant material for his later fiction.

The Hollywood experience aside, the 1920s and 1930s were remarkably productive and successful years for Wodehouse. It was also during these years that he wrote some of his best short stories, especially the Mr. Mulliner tales, which are driven by a golf theme and told by “The Oldest Member.” Wodehouse's best-known short stories, however, are those devoted to his beloved characters Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, his valet. In each of these tales, Jeeves must rescue the ridiculous Bertie from various absurd situations.

American Broadcasts Shortly after Wodehouse was honored by being made a doctor of letters by Oxford University in 1939, he was unable to escape Le Touquet, France, where he was living at the time that France fell to the rapidly advancing Nazi German army. On July 21, 1940, Germany decreed that all male aliens were to be interned, and Wodehouse was imprisoned in Tost (now Toszek), Upper Silesia. In June 1941, when Wodehouse was to be released, CBS correspondent Harry Flannery arranged for Wodehouse to broadcast to America from a script Flannery had written.

It was not long before the German Foreign Office asked Wodehouse to make a series of broadcasts to America using his own scripts. He agreed and broadcast a series of talks called “How to Be an Internee in Your Spare Time Without Previous Experience.” These talks treated his experiences in prison camp with his usual humor, and what he read today seems harmless enough. However, the reactions of British press and government approached hysteria at the time. William Connor of the Daily Mirror accused “the elderly playboy” of broadcasting Nazi propaganda, though Connor never mentioned what Wode-house actually said in the broadcasts. Ironically, the U.S. War Department used recordings of the broadcasts as models of anti-Nazi propaganda in its intelligence school, but members of the British government remained unforgiving.

After this bitter experience, Wodehouse left England for New York in 1947. He seldom spoke of the broadcasts later and, at least publicly, held no grudges. He became an American citizen in 1955 and never returned to England, although he frequently discussed doing so, especially when he was granted a knighthood on New Year's Day 1975. He remained on Long Island, New York, where he lived a happy life “just writing one book after another.” He was working on another novel, Sunset at Blandings, when he died on February 14, 1975.

Works in Literary Context

Comic Wordplay In his school stories, Wodehouse used materials from conventional novels, enhancing hisstories with literary allusions and quotations that became characteristic features of his later work. In his work of the 1920s and 1930s, he introduced his most characteristic devices: a mixture of convoluted plots; comic timing; stereotypical characters; and above all, his own invented language. Such language consists of odd personifications, a thorough confusion of vocabulary, an abundance of puns, and wild similes and metaphors that transport both characters and readers far beyond the bounds of logical discourse.

One way Wodehouse manipulates language to achieve comic effect is by adding and omitting prefixes and suffixes. For example, he takes the prefix de-, as in debunk or delouse, and adds it to proper names. The effect is witty and humorous, as seen in Uncle Dynamite when Pongo Twistleton gets Elsie Bean out of a cupboard: “His manner as he de-Beaned the cupboard was somewhat distrait.” Another example can be observed in Jeeves in the Offing when Bobbie Wickham has left Kipper Herring alone: Herring was “finding himself de-Wickhamed.”


Wodehouse's famous contemporaries include:

Scott Joplin (1867–1916): This famous American composer was innovative in Ragtime music.

Louis B. Mayer (1882–1957): Mayer, an American film producer, cofounded one of the first film studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

George Orwell (1903–1950): This celebrated English author and journalist concerned himself with government, politics, language, and the oppression of censorship.

Frank Sinatra (1915–1998): Sinatra was a popular American singer and award-winning actor known as “Ol' Blue Eyes.”

James Thurber (1894–1961): Thurber was an American writer, humorist, and cartoonist.

Wodehouse's use of language to evoke humor can also be seen in the Jeeves and Bertie stories. Even though Bertie is a highly educated person, he has a limited vocabulary and either haltingly tries to remember the “right” word or depends on Jeeves to complete his thoughts for him by providing the appropriate word. For instance, in Stiff Upper Lip, Bertie says, “I suppose Stiffy's sore about this … what's the word? … Not vase-line … Vacillation, that's it.” In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Bertie says, “Let a plugugly young Thos loose in the community … [is] inviting disaster and … what's the word? something about cats.” Jeeves replies, “Cataclysms, sir?” The results are amusing.

Influences The enormous influence of Dulwich College in Wodehouse's work has long been recognized. J. B. Priestley voiced the sentiment that Wodehouse remained “a brilliant super-de-luxe schoolboy” throughout his life, a belief that explains the sexless young women, terrifying aunts, and eccentric aristocrats who fill his pages. Another great influence on Wodehouse's fiction, especially his short stories, was his theatrical writing. In Over Seventy (1956), Wodehouse names several other humorists he greatly respected, including Alex Atkinson, A. P. Herbert, and Frank Sullivan.

Works in Critical Context

Wodehouse Collaborated Musicals As early as 1935, Frank Swinnerton offered a remark that is surely the best praise a humorist can receive: Wodehouse was so popular because “in a period when laughter has been difficult, he has made men laugh without shame.” Wode-house did not receive much critical attention during his career, and he described himself as “a pretty insignificant sort of blister, not at all the type that leaves footprints on the sands of time,” because “I go in for what is known in the trade as ‘light writing’ and those who do that—humorists they are sometimes called—are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at.” Other writers, however, not to mention millions of readers, have found in Wodehouse's world a wonderful escape from their own. Evelyn Waugh, in a broadcast of July 15, 1961, explained Wodehouse's continuing attraction: “For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no Fall of Man, no aboriginal calamity…. Mr. Wodehouse's world can never stale.”

The Kern-Bolton-Wodehouse team of 1915 set new standards for musical comedy. The Oxford Companion to the American Theatre asserts that Wodehouse “may wellbe considered the first truly great lyricist of the American musical stage, his easy colloquially flowing rhythm deftly intertwined with a sunny wit.” The Princess Theatre shows, though highly successful and influential in their time, are now seldom-revived period pieces. Their real and lasting influence was not only on audiences but on Wodehouse's fiction, which he subsequently began to structure in the fashion of the musical comedy. According to scholar David Jasen, Wodehouse himself “described his books as musical comedies without the music.”

Responses to Literature

  1. Using your library and the Internet, find out more about the roles of household servants to upper-class British families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. What roles were fulfilled by such servants as the housekeeper, the butler, and the valet? How many servants did the typical household employ? Do upper-class families in England continue to employ such servants today?
  2. Gentleman's clubs feature prominently in Wode-house's fiction. Using your library and the Internet, find out more about one of London's historic gentleman's clubs and write a short summary of its history.
  3. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories were adapted for television in the Independent Television series Jeeves and Wooster (1990–1993), which starred Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Watch some of the episode of this series. Do you think the television shows capture the humor of Wodehouse's writing? Are the portrayals of antics of British aristocrats affectionate or critical?


Wodehouse's incomparable wit was his trademark. Other works known for their comic appeal include:

Barrel Fever (1994), a collection of stories by David Sedaris. Noted humorist David Sedaris won widespread acclaim and attention with this collection.

The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), a play by Oscar Wilde. In this comedy of manners, misunderstandings and misinformation create a comic situation akin to Wodehouse's later Jeeves and Wooster tales.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925), a novel by Anita Loos. This comic novel about the substantial power of a gold-digging blonde was turned into a successful 1953 movie starring Marilyn Monroe.



Bordman, Gerald. Oxford Companion to American Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2004.

Jasen, David A. A Bibliography and Reader's Guide to the First Editions of P. G. Wodehouse. Peoria, Ill.: Spoon River Press, 1986.

Wodehouse, P. G. Life With Jeeves (A Bertie and Jeeves Compendium). New York: Penguin, 1983.

———. Over Seventy. London: Herbert Jenkins Press, 1957.

———. Uncle Dynamite. New York: Overlook Press Hardcover, 2007.


Clarke, Gerald. Paris Review (Winter 1975).

Kilmer, Joyce. New York Times (February 15, 1975); (October 18, 1981); (November 12, 1984); (November 7, 1985); (October 20, 1987); (March 23, 1989).

Los Angeles Times (June 7, 1931).

Web Sites

Books and Writers. Sir P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse (1881–1975). Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/pgwod.htm.

Lawrie, Michael. Cassandra [William Connor] and P. G. Wodehouse. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://lorry.org/cassandra.

The Wodehouse Society (TWS). Official P. G. Wodehouse Website. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://www.wodehouse.org. Last updated on May 17, 2007.

Wodehouse, P. G.

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Wodehouse, P. G. (1881–1975). Wodehouse was the son of a judge in Hong Kong but was born in Guildford. His parents stayed in the colony and from the age of 2 Wodehouse was brought up in England by relatives or hired governesses. Dulwich College he thought ‘like heaven’. He began as a bank clerk which he hated, but made his way into journalism and in 1919 published My Man Jeeves. The success of these stories prompted an avalanche of Bertie Wooster novels and stories. During the Second World War Wodehouse was captured in France by the Germans, who released him and allowed him to broadcast to America. This foolish action gave great offence in Britain and after the war he lived in the USA, becoming an American citizen. He was given a knighthood a few days before his death. Wodehouse's stories acquired in time a period flavour of bright young things and made a very successful television series. Like most good writers, he created his own imaginary world, full of daft men and determined women.

J. A. Cannon

Wodehouse, P.G.

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Wodehouse, P.G. ( Sir Pelham Grenville) (1881–1975) British novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and lyricist. He began his writing career in 1902, and wrote more than 100 humorous books. His best-known creations are Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, who feature in a number of books from 1917 to 1971. During World War 2, Wodehouse's ill-advised radio broadcasts from Berlin outraged British public opinion, and he became an American citizen in 1955.