Thursday, October 15, 2020

Author Birthday [October] : P.G. Wodehouse

#AuthorBirthday is a monthly feature, in which I highlight one author each month, mostly the ones I have not yet read. Part of the aim is to get familiar with the author and (hopefully) encourage me to start reading his/her work.

For October, please welcome:

P.G. Wodehouse

Sir Pelham Greenville Wodehouse, who was born in 15 October 1881, might be by far my most difficult featured #AuthorBirthday. He lived such a fast-paced life as an English novelist, humorist, playwright, and lyricist, that it's impossible to write a proper mini-biography for him. But, I'd try my best to, at least, highlight his most accomplishments.

Wodehouse is a son of a magistrate who was posted in Hong Kong (as the British colony). He was born prematurely when his mother was visiting her sister in England - the rural village of Guildford in Surrey. He was baptized instantly, and named after his godafther: Pelham con Donop. It's from the name Pelham, that Wodehouse's been nicknamed 'Plum'.

Wodehouse spent most of his childhood in various houses with various adults. In the first two years he was raised by a nurse in Hong Kong. Then he was brought to England and raised by an English nanny, while his parents returned to Hong Kong, remained estranged to Wodehouse as he grew up. His biographer, Robert McCrum, said that this circumstance left psychological mark in Wodehouse, that he avoided emotional engagement both in life and works. Maybe that's why he wrote so many humorous stories?...

His father planned a naval career for Wodehouse, but his poor eyesight failed him. Nevertheless, his unhappy days in the naval prep school inspired him later to be parodied in Bertie Wooster's 'penitentiary prep school'. During holidays he spent hurly burly times with his numerous uncles and aunts, which also played important part on his early life and influenced his later characters. It was after he was placed at the Dulwich College in 1894 that Wodehouse felt at home for the first time, happily spent his time for 6 years. It also marked his first literary career, by editing the school magazine.

As his father's financial was declining, Wodehouse was forced to worked as junior officer at a bank from 1900 to 1902. As you can imagine, he didn't enjoy his work, but compensate it with writing serious articles about school sports for Public School Magazine at afterword hours. In November 1901 his first comic work: "Men Who Missed Their Own Wedding" got published in a magazine. In the next two years Wodehouse wrote not less than eighty pieces on nine magazines. Wodehouse finally resigned from the bank in 1902 to write full-time. At the same year his first novel was published: a school story titled: The Pothunters".

However, novel was not his only work, Wodehouse began to write musical comedy for the stage in 1904, the same year he visited America for the first time - he returned often to the US after that. But he would be widely recognized through his comic stories. It's in the year 1908 that his first original comic character was born: Psmith. But it is the duet of young bachelor Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves that made him most famous. The first story was published in September 1915, titled: "Extricating Young Gussie" in the Strand Magazine, where he has been contributing regularly from 1910.

When WW1 broke, Wodehouse was staying in New York. He later married an English widow, Ethel May Wayman, in September 1914. Sadly, the couple was not blessed by any children; however, Wodehouse eventually legally adopted Ethel's daughter from her first marriage: Leonora. His next adventure was scriptwriting. His first work was for a movie in 1915: "A Gentleman of Leisure". He even joined MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) - though only for one year - in 1930. Wodehouse then tried his fortune in theater by collaborating on a musical comedy on Broadway in 1920.

In 1934 the Wodehouses decided to move to France due to tax reasons (since he has been living in US and UK). Most unfortunate for him, during World War II, the Germans captured Wodehouse and imprisoned him for about one year. In 1941 he was interviewed by a radio, which was broadcasted to the USA, where he humorously described his imprisonment and ridiculing the Germans. This angered the Britains since he'd done it in Germany, which was their enemy during that time.

Wodehouse finally moved permanently to America in 1947, and received American citizenship in 1955. The British government, however, announced that Wodehouse is saved to return to England in 1965, and in 1974 Wodehouse was granted a knighthood. The year next, he was brought to the Southampton Hospital on Long Island for a skin complaint. While still staying at the hospital, Wodehouse suffered a heart attach, which took his life in 14 February 1975.

Nowadays P.G. Wodehouse is widely regarded as the greatest comic author of the 20th century with a quite outstanding achievement: he has writen more than 90 books, more than 20 film scripts, and collaborated on more than 30 plays and musical comedies in his life - mostly takes the social atmosphere of late Edwardian era.


  1. i've read a lot of Wodehouse; his Bertie and Jeeves stories are a great antidote for an increasingly sad world... i read a bio of him once, also, but it's good to relearn what i forgot... tx...

  2. I love Wodehouse and have been reading a lot of his books lately, such fun escapism. I started years ago with Jeeves & Wooster because of the brilliant TV adaptation with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry who are perfectly cast. Recently I've been reading the Blandings series which is a delight. I also started his biography which I could only get on audio so I've been alternating between the fiction. They are very diverting, the biggest problem is Sir Emsworth's worries about his prize pig at the county fair. And with 90 books, I can just read them all and start over again at the beginning!


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