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Sir P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse (1881-1975)

 

Prolific English comic novelist, short story writer, lyricist and playwright, best known as the creator of Jeeves, the perfect "gentleman's gentleman," Bertie Wooster of the Drones Club, a young bachelor aristocrat, and the absentminded Lord Emsworth of the Blandings Castle. Most of Wodehouse's works gently parodied the British aristocracy of the 1920s and 1930s. After World War II Wodehouse lived in the United States. During the decades, Wodehouse's picture of Edwardian England gradually disengaged from reality, and became an imaginary land which was untouched by time. As a prose stylist Wodehouse praised by such writers as Hilaire Bellock and Evelyn Waugh.

"One great advantage in being a historian to a man like Jeeves is that his mere personality prevents one selling one's artistic soul for gold. In recent years I have had lucrative offers for his services from theatrical managers, motion-picture magnates, the proprietors of one or two widely advertised commodities, and even the editor of the comic supplement of an American newspaper, who wanted him for a "comic strip". But, tempting though the terms were, it only needed Jeeves deprecating cough and his murmured "I would scarcely advocate it, sir," to put the jack under my better nature. Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book." (from Wodehouse's introduction to The World of Jeeves, 1967)

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born in Guildford, Surrey, the third son of Henry Ernest Wodehouse, a British judge in Hong Kong, and Eleanor (Deane) Wodehouse. Within the family, Wodehouse's first name was abbreviated to "Plum" and later also his wife and friends used this name. Until the age of four, Wodehouse lived in Hong Kong with his parents. Returning to England, he spent much of his childhood in the care of various aunts, seeing rarely his parents. Wodehouse attended boarding schools and received his secondary education at Dulwich College, London, which he always remembered with affection. "To me, the years between 1894 and 1900 were like heaven," he once said.

His first story Wodehouse wrote at the age of seven. His first article for which he was paid was 'Some Aspects of Game Captaincy." Wodehouse wrote it for a competition sponsored by The Public School Magazine. However, Wodehouse's father did not approve of his son's writing, and after graduating in 1900 Wodehouse worked two years at the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

Wodehouse entered the literary world first as a free-lance writer, contributing humorous stories to Punch and the London Globe, where he had a column called 'By the Way'. Most of his stories appeared first serialized at the Saturday Evening Post. After 1909 he lived and worked long periods in the United States and in France. In 1914 he married Ethel Newton, a widow; they had met in New York eight weeks earlier. She had a daughter, Leonora, whom Wodehouse adopted legally. In 1926 he dedicated The Heart of a Goof to his daughter "without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half time." Leonora died in 1943.

Wodehouse wrote for musical comedy in New York and for Hollywood, but viewed the film industry ironically. "In every studio in Hollywood there are rows and rows of hutches, each containing an author on a long contract at a weekly salary. You see their anxious little faces peering out through the bars. You hear them whining piteously to be taken for a walk. And does the heart bleed? You bet it bleeds. A visitor has to be very callous not to be touched by such a spectacle as this." (Wodehouse in Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 1929) Once he spent a week at William Randolph Hearst's estate and wrote: "I sat on [Hearst's mistress Marion Davies's] right the first night, the found myself being edged further and further away till I got to the extreme end . . . Another day, and I should have been feeding on the floor."

Wodehouse's early stories were mainly for schoolboys centering on a character known as Ronald (or sometimes Rupert) Eustace Psmith, a "very tall, very thin, very solemn young man." Following the World War I Wodehouse gained fame with the novel Piccadilly Jim (1918). At the time he married Ethel, he had only $100 in bank, but by the 1920s he was earning $100,000 in a year. His major breakthrough Wodehause made with The Inimitable Jeeves (1924). He had introduced Bertie Woorster and a valet named Jeeves in the short story 'The Man with Two Left Feet' (1917). Thank You, Jeeves (1934), his novel centering on these characters, was immediately greeted as one of his very best. Although the juxtaposition of a clever servant and foolish master had been known since classical times and was famously used by Cervantes in the Don Quixote-Sancho Panza pair, Wodehouse managed to refresh the old idea and add to it a peculiar British twist.

Usually Jeeves saved Bertie from many disasters. Of his relatives the most formidable was Aunt Agatha. C. Northcote Parkinson wrote in his Jeeves, A Gentleman's Personal Gentleman (1979): "Bertie was under the impression that he had chosen Jeeves, approving the man who had been sent by an agency. But that is not what happened. Proust once remarked that, 'It is a mistake to speak of a bad choice in love, since, as soon as a choice exists, it can only be bad.'" In addition to his humorous novels and stories, Wodehouse collaborated with Guy Bolton in writing several popular Broadway musicals, notably Sally (1920), Sitting Pretty (1924), Anything Goes (1934), and Bring on the Girls (1954). Wodehouse's greatest lyrics include 'Bill,' a hit in the musical Show Boat. "Musical comedy was my dish," he once said. He collaborated among others with Jerome Kern (Oh, Boy!, 1917; Leave it to Jane, 1917), George Gershwin (Oh, Kay!, 1926), and Cole Porter, who wrote lyrics and music for Anything Goes.

"So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life.
"
(from Sally, 1920)

Wodehouse spent the remainder of his life in several homes in the U.S. and Europe. In Hollywood he helped found the Hollywood Cricket Club; its members included Boris Karloff, Errol Flynn, and David Niven. Later, while living in Long Island, he helped set up "Bide-A-Wee" home for stray and abandoned pets.

During World War II Wodehouse was captured by the Germans at Le Touquet, France, where he used to stay when not living in England-partly because tax authorities. At that time the U.S. had not entered the war. After spending about a year in various German camps, he was interned in Berlin. For a period, he stayed at the Adlon hotel, and then spent the summer with friends in the country. Eventually the Wodehouses were dispatched to Paris. The New York Times wrote in September 1942, that Wodehouse had "accepted German hospitality on a luxurious scale."

Wodehouse, who was not a Nazi sympathizer, naïvely recorded five interviews, depicting humorously his experiences as an internee. These interviews were broadcast by German radio to America and England, but his made Wodehouse liable to charges of treason. On his first chat he said: "Young men, starting out in life, have often asked me, "How can I become an Internee?" Well, there are several methods. My own was to buy a villa in Le Touquet on the coast of France and stay there till the Germans came along. This is probably the best and  simplest system.  You buy the villa and the Germans do the rest."

Wodehouse was labelled as a quisling in the Daily Mirror and libraries withdrew his books-the Battle of Britain was no laughing matter. After the liberation of Paris, Wodehouse was arrested by the French, and released in 1945 through the intervention of British officials. For fear of prosecution, which the British officials had actually dropped, he was not able to return to his home country. Accusations against him were never proven correct, but he was never totally cleared. George Orwell defended Wodehouse but A.A. Milne broke his friendship with him.

The first Wodehouse work to be published in Britain after the war was Money in the Bank, which came out in 1946 and sold  26,000 copies. When the play Don't Listen, Ladies, written in collaboration with Guy Bolton, was produced in London, the playwrights were billed as Guy Bolton and Stephen Powys.

Wodehouse settled in the United States, living in his new home country in near-seclusion. He bought a ten-acre estate on Long Island in 1952. An American citizen he became three years later. By this time his political mistakes were forgotten, and Wodehouse was subsequently awarded a D.Litt. from Oxford University. Malcolm Muggeridge, who had investigated the author as a member of military intelligence during the war, asked him in 1953 to write a regular column for Punch magazine. Though Wodehouse eventually lived in America longer than in Britain, he retained his English accent. He died in Remsenburg, Long Island, on February 14, 1975. A few weeks before he died, Wodehouse had received a knighthood.

Wodehouse wrote nearly 100 novels, about 30 plays and 20 screenplays. His first book, The Pothunters, a short story collection, was published 1902. The last, Aunt's Aren't Gentlemen, appeared 1974. Wodehouse also wrote his memoirs, Performing Flea (1951) and Over Seventy (1957). In the 1960s Wodehouse's stories inspired the television series The World of Wooster and Blandings Castle. Wodehouse Playhouse started in 1975 and in the 1990s Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves appeared in new television series. Piccadilly Jim was made into a film by Robert Z. Leonard in 1936, starring Robert Montgomery, Madge Evans, and Frank Morgan.

For further reading: Bibliography and Reader's Guide to the First Editions of P.G. Wodehouse by David Jansen (1971); The World of P.G. Wodehouse by H.W. Wind (1972); P.G. Wodehouse at Work to the End by Richard Usborne (1976) P.G. Wodehouse by Owen Dudley Owens (1977); Jeeves: A Gentleman's personal Gentleman by C. Northcote Parkinson (1979); P.G. Wodehouse. A Literary Biography by Benny Green (1981); P.G. Wodehouse by Frances Donaldson (1982); Wodehouse: The Fictionist by M.N. Shama (1982); Who's Who in Wodehouse by Daniel H. Garrison (1990); P. G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth by Barry Phelps (1992); Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum (2004); The Novel Life of P.G. Wodehouse by Roderick Easdale (2004) 

Selected books:

  • The Pothunters, 1902
  • A Perfect Uncle, 1903
  • Tales of St. Austin's, 1903
  • The Gold Bat, 1904
  • William Tell Told Again, 1904
  • The Head of Kays, 1905
  • Love Among the Chickens, 1906
  • The White Feather, 1907
  • Not George Washington, 1907
  • The Globe by the Way Book, 1908
  • Enter Psmith, 1909
  • Mike, a Public School Story, 1909
  • The Gem Collector (The Intrusion of Jimmy / A Gentleman of Leisure, 1910), 1909
    - Vaikeasti valloitettu (suomentanut Väinö Nyman, 1923)
  • The Swoop! Or, How Clarence Saved England, 1909
  • Psmith in the City, 1910
  • The Prince and Betty, 1912
    - Film 1919, dir. Robert Thornby, starring William Desmond, Mary Thurman and Anita Kay
    - Prinssi ja Betty (suomentanut Salme Setälä, 1926)
  • Brother Alfred, 1913 (play, with H.H. Westbrook)
    - Film 1932, dir. Henry Edwards, starring Gene Gerrard, Molly Lamont and Elsie Randolph
  • A Thief for a Night, 1913 (play, with John Stapleton)
  • The Little Nugget, 1914
  • The Man Upstairs, 1914
  • Something Fresh, 1915
    - Jotakin uutta (suomentanut Aino Tuomikoski, 1925)
  • The Man with Two Left Feet, 1917
  • Psmith, Journalist, 1916
  • Uneasy Money, 1917
    - Film 1918, dir. Lawrence C. Windom, starring Taylor Holmes, Virginia Valli and Arthur W. Bates 
    - Rauhatonta rahaa (suomentanut Väinö Meltti, 1924)
  • Have a Heart, 1917 (play, with Guy Bolton)
  • Oh, Boy!, 1917 (play, with Guy Bolton)
    - Film 1919, dir. Albert Capellani, starring June Caprice, Creighton Hale and Zena Keefe
  • Leave It to Jane, 1917 (musical comedy with Kern and Guy Bolton, based on The College Widow by George Ade)
  • Oh, Lady! Lady!. 1918 (play, with John Bolton, based on The Girl from Rector's by Pierre Veber)
    - Film 1920, dir. Maurice Campbell, starring Bebe Daniels, Harrison Ford and Walter Hiers
  • Piccadilly Jim, 1918
    - Films: 1919, dir. Wesley Ruggles, starring Owen Moore, Zena Keefe and George Bunny; 1936, prod. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), dir. by Robert Z. Leonard, starring Robert Montgomery, Frank Morgan and Madge Evans; 2006, dir. John McKay, starring  Sam Rockwell, Frances O'Connor and Tom Wilkinson 
    - Piccadillyn Jim (suomentanut Tuulikki Routamo, 1939)
  • A Damsel in Distress, 1919
    - Films: 1919, dir. George Archainbaud, starring June Caprice, Creighton Hale and William H. Thompson  1937, prod. RKO Radio Pictures, dir. George Stevens, starring Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen
    - Neitonen ahdingossa (suomentanut J. V. Korjula, 1925) / Ojassa ja allikossa (suomentanut S.S. Taula, 1950)
  • Their Mutual Child, 1919
    - Film 1921, dir. George L. Cox, starring Margarita Fischer, Joseph Bennett and Margaret Campbell
  • The Little Warrior / Jill the Reckless, 1920
    - Huimapää Jill: romaani (suomentanut Tellervo Laurila, 1934)
  • Sally, 1920 (play, with John Bolton)
    - Film 1929, dir. John Francis Dillon, starring Marilyn Miller, Alexander Gray and Joe E. Brown 
  • The Coming of Bill, 1920
  • The Indiscretions of Archie, 1921
  • The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922
    - Film 1924, dir. Andrew P. Wilson, starring Peter Haddon, Helena Pickard and Moore Marriott
  • The Girl on the Boat, 1922
  • Three Men and a Maid, 1922
  • The Cabaret Girl, 1922 (play, with Guy Bolton)
  • Jeeves, 1923
  • Leave it to Psmith, 1923
    - Film: Leave It To Mee, 1933, dir. Monty Banks, starring Gene Gerrard, Olive Borden and Molly Lamont
    - Antaa Psmithin hoitaa (suomentanut Aino Tuomikoski, 1928)
  • The Adventures of Sally, 1923
    - Onnen portaat (suomentanut Alpo Kupiainen, 1927)
  • Tales of St. Austins, 1923
  • The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923
    - Verraton Jeeves (suomentanut Annikka Jäntti, 1948)
  • Sitting Pretty, 1924 (play, with John Bolton)
  • Ukridge, 1924
  • A Prefects Uncle, 1924
  • Golf Without Tears, 1924
  • Bill the Conqueror, 1924
    - Ville Valloittaja: hänen hyökkäyksensä Englantiin iloiseen kevätaikaan (suom. O. A. Joutsen, 1936)
  • Carry On, Jeeves, 1925
    - Antaa Jeevesin hoitaa (suomentanut Katri Jylhä, 1950)
  • Sam the Sudden, 1925
    - Sukkela Sam (suomentanut Eino Palola, 1929)
  • Oh Kay!, 1926 (play, with John Bolton)
    -  Film 1928, dir, Mervyn LeRoy, starring Colleen Moore, Lawrence Gray and Alan Hale
  • The Play's the Thing, 1926 (play, adapted from Ferec Molnar)
  • He Rather Enjoyed It, 1926
  • The Heart of a Goof, 1926
    - Kuolemattomia golftarinoita (suomentanut Janne Tarmio, 1990)
  • Her Cardboard Lover, 1927 (play)
    - Film 1942, dir. George Cukor, starring Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor and George Sanders 
  • The Small Bachelor, 1927
  • Divots, 1927
  • Good Morning, Bill, 1928 (play)
    - Film Gomorron Bill!, 1945, dir. Lauritz Falk, Peter Winner, starring Lauritz Falk, Gaby Stenberg and Stig Järrel
  • Money For Nothing, 1928
  • Summer Lightning, 1929
    - Films: 1933, dir. Maclean Rogers, starring Ralph Lynn, Winifred Shotter and Chili Bouchier; Blixt och dunder, 1938, dir. Anders Henrikson, starring Olof Winnerstrand, Nils Wahlbom and Frida Winnerstrand
    - Kesäinen rajuilma (suom. Eino Auer, 1942)
  • Fish Preferred, 1929
  • Very Good Jeeves!, 1930
  • Mr. Mulliner Speaking, 1930
  • If I Were You, 1931
    - Kuka teki kenelle mitä?: leikillinen romaani (suomentanut Olli Nuorto, 1949)
  • Big Money, 1931
    - Rahaa kuin roskaa: romaani (suom. Tauno Nuotio, 1938)
  • Jeeves Omnibus, 1931
  • Hot Water, 1932
  • Doctor Sally, 1932
  • Nothing But Wodehouse, 1932
  • Heavy Weather, 1933
    -  TV film 1995, dir. Jack Gold, starring Judy Parfitt, Roy Hudd and Richard Briers 
  • Mulliner Nights, 1933
    - Mutkan kautta väärään (suomentanut S. S. Taula, 1954)
  • Anything Goes, 1934
    - Films: 1936, dir. by Lewis Milestone, starring Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, Ida Lupino, Charlie Ruggles; 1956, dir. by Robert M. Lewis, starring Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Zizi "Renée" Jeanmaire, Phil Harris
  • Who's Who, 1934 (play, with Guy Bolton, based on If I Were You)
  • Thank You, Jeeves, 1934
    - Film 1936, dir. Arthur Greville Collins, starring Arthur Treacher, Virginia Field and David Niven
    - Kiitos Jeeves. Jeeves tarinoita 1: Jepulis, Jeeves; Kiitos Jeeves; Munakasta Jeeves (suom. Kaisa Sivenius, 2009)
  • Methuen's Library of Humour: P.G. Wodehouse, 1934
  • Right Ho, Jeeves, 1934 (US title: Brinkley Manor)
    - Kiitos, Jeeves. Jeeves tarinoita 1: Jepulis, Jeeves; Kiitos Jeeves; Munakasta Jeeves (suom. Kaisa Sivenius, 2009)
  • Mulliner Omnibus, 1935
  • The Inside Stand, 1935 (play, based on Hot Water)
  • Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, 1935
  • Enter Psmith, 1935
  • Laughing Gas, 1936
  • The Luck of the Bodkins, 1936
    - Onnenpotku: humoristinen romaani (suom. 1937)
  • Young Men in Spats, 1936
  • Lord Emsworth and Others, 1937
  • Crime Wave at Blandings, 1937
  • Summer Moonshine, 1937
    - Kesäinen kuutamo (suomentanut Olavi Linnus, 1939)
  • The Code of the Woorsters, 1938
    - Pulmallinen viikonloppu (suomentanut Tauno Nuotio, 1939) / Hiiop, Jeeves: Jeeves-tarinoita 2: Hiiop, Jeeves!;  Huomenta, Jeeves !;  Bingo pulassa  (suom. Kaisa Sivenius, 2010
  • Uncle Fred in Springtime, 1939
  • ... Dudley is Back to Normal, 1940
  • Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets, 1940
  • Quick Service, 1940
  • Wodehouse on Golf, 1940
  • Money in the Bank, 1942
  • Joy in the Morning, 1946
    - Rakkauden hulluus (suomentanut Risto Kalliomaa, 1948)
  • Full Moon, 1947
    - Kuutamokuhertelua (suom. Taimi Tanskanen, 1948)
  • Spring Feaver, 1948
  • Don't Listen, Ladies, 1948 (as Stephen Powys)
  • Uncle Dynamite, 1948
    - Fred-setä järjestää: leikillinen romaani (suom. S. S. Taula, 1950)
  • The Mating Season, 1949
  • The Best of Wodehouse, 1949
  • Performing Flea, 1951
  • Nothing Serious, 1951
  • The Old Reliable, 1951
    - Kunnon vanha Bill: leikillinen romaani (suomentanut S. S. Taula, 1952)
  • The Weekend Wodehouse, 1951
  • Pigs Have Wings, 1952
    - Possut piilosilla: iloinen romaani (suomentanut S.S. Taula, 1955)
  • Angel Cake, 1952
  • Barmie in Wonderland, 1952
    - Aina vain paranee: leikillinen romaani (suom. S. S. Taula, 1953)
  • Bring on the Girls, 1953 (play, with John Bolton)
  • Ring for Jeeves, 1953
  • Performing Flea, 1953
  • Mike at Wrykym, 1953
  • Return to Jeeves, 1954
  • Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, 1954
    - Jalomielinen Jeeves (suom. Risto Kalliomaa, 1956)
  • Bertie Woorster Sees It Through, 1955
  • America, I Like You, 1956
  • Something Fishy, 1957
  • Over Seventy, 1957
  • The Butler Did It, 1957
  • Cocktail Time, 1958
  • Few Quick Ones, 1959
  • The Most of P.G. Wodehouse, 1960
  • Jeeves in the Offing, 1960
  • French Leave, 1960
    - Ranskalaista rakkautta (suom. Mario Talaskivi, 1957)
  • Ice in the Bedroom, 1961
  • Author! Author!, 1962
  • Service with a Smile, 1962
  • Stiff Upper Lip, 1963
  • Frozen Assets, 1964
  • Biffens Millions, 1964
  • The Brinksmanship of Galahad Threepwood, 1965
  • Plum Pie, 1966
  • The World of Jeeves, 1967
    - Pip-pip, sir: valikoima parhaita Jeaves-juttuja (suom. Raija Mattila ja Paavo Lehtonen, 1969)
  • The Purloined Paperweight, 1967
  • Do Butlers Burgler Banks, 1968
  • Galahad at Blandings, 1969
  • A Pelican at Blandings, 1969
    - Outo lintu linnassa (suomentanut Raija Mattila, 1971)
  • No Nudes Is Good Nudes, 1970
  • The Girl in Blue, 1970
  • Much Obliged, Jeeves, 1971
    - Suurenmoista, Jeeves (suomentanut Raija Mattila, 1973)
  • Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, 1971
  • A Prefects Uncle, 1972
  • Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin, 1972
  • The Bachelors Anonymous, 1973
  • The Plot That Thickened, 1973
  • Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, 1974
  • The Golf Omnibus, 1974
    - Vanhin jäsen: lisää kuolemattomia golftarinoita (suom. Janne Tarmio, Hannu Tarmio, 1991)
  • The World of Psmith, 1974
  • The World of Ukridge, 1975
  • The Cat-Nappers, 1975
  • The World of Blandings, 1976
  • Jeeves, 1976
  • The Uncollected Wodehouse, 1976
  • Vintage Wodehouse, 1977
  • Sunset at Hundings, 1977
  • Wodehouse at Work to the End, 1977
  • Sunset at Blandings, 1978
  • Wodehouse on Wodehouse, 1980
  • Wodehouse on Crime, 1981
  • The World of Uncle Fred, 1983
  • Fore!, 1983
  • The World of Wodehouse Clergy, 1984
  • The Hollywood Omnibus, 1985
  • Yours, Plum: The Letters of P. G. Wodehouse, 1991 (edited by Frances Donaldson) 
  • Enter Jeeves: 15 Early Stories, 1997 (edited by David A. Jasen)
  • Crash! A Life In Letters, the Correspondence of PG Wodehouse, 2011 (edited by Sophie Ratcliffe) 


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