Wodehouse, the Legend

On this day in 1975, P.G. Wodehouse, 93, died in a U.S. hospital. Patrick Kidd in today’s Times of London begins:

And while the bores at the Romantic Novelists’ Association have this week predictably nominated Pride and Prejudice as the greatest novel of all time, surely P. G. Wodehouse is long overdue recognition as one of our finest romantic treasures.

No writer, not even Shakespeare, has mastered the simile with the power of Wodehouse. Consider such brilliant descriptions as “A tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and forgotten to say ‘when’ “, or “She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built around her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season”.

No writer, not even Shakespeare? Absolutely! Even India’s IT world acknowledges it. As the Daily Telegraph reports, “It has long been said that if you scratch any Indian who has a reading habit you will find a Wodehouse fan underneath. His works are sold on Indian railway platforms alongside the latest blockbusters. Questions about Bertie Wooster and the Empress of Blandings remain staples of every television quiz.”

Biographer Robert McCrum (that’s close to a Wodehouse name, isn’t it?) says the author had a very difficult childhood, which likely compelled him to reject reality altogether.

Living for the most part in the Far East, they parked their four sons with an English nanny who kept them “under a kind of house arrest.” Later came boarding schools and aunts. “Imagine,” McCrum says. “He saw his mother really for the first time when he was 15. The first time he met her, as a boy, he thought she was just another aunt. So what his childhood taught him was that reality was a very painful place, and that the way to avoid reality was to go somewhere else, into a fantasy world.”

As a heads up, Wodehouse birthday is October 15, 1881. Consider that a tip from the stable should you want to have an excuse for anything.


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