The Wit of P.G. Wodehouse

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE (1881 – 1975) commonly known as ‘P. G. Wodehouse’ was an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century, who, after leaving school, was employed by a bank but disliking the work turned to writing in his spare time. He eventually created several regular characters of comic fiction who became familiar to the public, in particular Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves.

Though most of Wodehouse's fiction is set in England, he spent much of his life in the United States. He also wrote a series of Broadway musical comedies during and after the First World War which are said to have played an important part in the development of the American musical.

In 1934, Wodehouse moved to France and in 1940 he was taken prisoner by the invading Germans and interned for nearly a year. Soon after his release, he made six broadcasts from German radio to the US, which had not yet entered the war. Though the talks were intended to be comic, the fact that he had broadcasted over enemy radio prompted controversy in Britain, to which Wodehouse never returned. Taking dual British-American citizenship in 1955, Wodehouse returned to America.

Wodehouse published more than 90 books, 40 plays, 200 short stories, and other writings between 1902 and and his death in 1975 at the age of 93 in New York.

Wodehouse produced a novel in about three months, slowing in old age to around six months. His mixture of Edwardian language, poetic quotations and allusions and other techniques resulted in a distinct prose style. These quotes give a glimpse of it:

'I just sit at my typewriter and curse a bit.’

'There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.'

'If he had a mind, there was something on it.'

'And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.'

'You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.'