Drawing of Wodehouse

P. G. Wodehouse

Pelham ("Plum") Grenville Wodehouse (pronounced "Woodhouse") was the greatest writer in English of this century--but sadly overlooked by most `serious' critics because he wrote comedy and lyrics for musicals. As a lyricist, Wodehouse was the father of the modern musical. In the early part of this century Kern, Bolton and Wodehouse wrote a number of musicals for a tiny New York theatre, the Princess--and transformed the American muscial forever. Before, the musical comedy had "exotic" locales and simple music and was based on the operetta of the 19th century. Bolton, Kern and Wodehouse made it a play with music, set in contemporaneous society and featuring ordinary people. Furthermore the lyrics of the song were an integral part of the plot. The pinnacle of this sort of music is surely Bill, written in 1917 and used by Kern in Showboat--a haunting song about a man so ordinary that the girl can't explain why she loves (Just My) Bill.

And as a wordsmith he has no equal. He could, as Evelyn Waugh put it, "produce on average three uniquely brilliant and original similes to every page". His stories were not written to be "important" or to appeal to critics; they were straightforward humour. He was a punctilious and diligent writer whose only aim was to make as many people as possible laugh.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Summer Lightning:

A certain critic--for such men, I regret to say, do exist--made the nasty remark about my last novel [Heavy Weather] that it contained `all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha; but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

There are still some people that believe that Wodehouse was a traitor during WW2, some sort of Lord Haw-Haw. This is complete hogwash; here's more on the matter, and here's what George Orwell said about it.

One of Wodehouse's foremost admirers was Evelyn Waugh. I also have a collection of things that Waugh said about PGW.

Today, Wodehouse is not as famous as he should be--at least among the lay public. If you ask authors though, he still consistently places near the top of lists of influences. (For instance, here's Stephen Fry writing in The Independent*.) If you're interested, I'd be happy to recommend some books.

Tie Image

Try a random quote.

There is also a mailing list of people interested in Wodehouse, called PGWnet - to join, send email to majordomo@wodehouse.org with this one line:

subscribe pgwnet

Interested in the 2001 Wodehouse Society Convention? Extra! Interested in the Drones Club Tie? Just the thing to wear to the Conventions.

Other Items of Interest to Wodehouse Fans

On the use of racist terms
What does a banjolele sound like?

Other Pages

What's that? You are a Wodehouse afficionado, you say? Well, then, how about joining The Wodehouse Society? In England, The P. G. Wodehouse Society (UK). Or the perhaps the Dutch P. G. Wodehouse Society.
Visit the P.G. Wodehouse Appreciation Page or the Junior Ganymede Club Book, otherwise known as the Wodehouse FAQ list.


* If the link to The Independent is broken, try this one
Last modified: Sat May 4 16:33:09 PDT 2002