Like I did yesterday, I am sure all over the world many from The Wodehouse Society of which I am a proud member would have raised a toast to celebrate the 132 nd birth anniversary of one who I believe is the finest writer in the English language, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975).
“Plum” as he is affectionately known to his fans was one the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote over 90 novels, was the co-author of scripts for plays and lyrics for musical comedies and produced countless other pieces over a writing career that spanned some seven decades.
I first read Wodehouse in the 60’s while at school and the five decades that followed have not in any way diminished my interest in reading and re-reading his books. I can’t think of any other writer who gave so much pleasure to the reader. His choice of words, turn of phrase and his eye for detail made his writing so enjoyable. He is fondly regarded by us his fans simply as The Master.
He created characters who will out last all of us. Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, the Earl of Emsworth, Lord Ickenham, Aunt Agatha, and that prize pig Empress of Blandings, to name but a very few, have become household names wherever English is read. What makes Plum’s personal story that much more poignant is that he was extremely shy and retiring by nature. He lived in world of his own, making him really quite naive, even to the extent of being labelled an escapist. It was inevitable that he came in for a lot of criticism for his broadcasts during World War II from Germany where he was interned.
Plum never returned to live in the UK. Though he lived in the US since 1955 he continued to churn out stories set in the England he knew. His stories are indeed timeless and time, as we fans often proclaim, stays still in the World Of Wodehouse. Shortly before his 93rd birthday, Her Majesty knighted him Sir Pelham, an honour which many considered was long overdue but at least it happened in his life time.
If you aren’t a Plum fan, here are a few selections of his writing , courtesy BrainyQuotes, which I hope will soon make you one.
In closing, here is vintage Wodehouse for you: “A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel 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 Elijah; 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.”
So I raise a toast once again, “To you, Sir Pelham. We can’t thank you enough for spreading so much sweetness and light.”