P.G. Wodehouse, a Decent Chap
“Now, touching this business of old Jeeves – my man, you know – how do we stand? Lots of people think I’m much too dependent on him. My Aunt Agatha, in fact, has even gone so far as to call him my keeper. Well, what I say is: Why not? The man’s a genius. From the collar upward he stands alone. I gave up trying to run my own affairs within a week of his coming to me.”
– P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, Jeeves Takes Charge
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born in 1881, in Guildford, Surrey, to Eleanor and Henry Ernest Wodehouse. Ernest Wodehouse was a British judge in Hong Kong, and the family lived there until young Wodehouse was four.
The family then returned to England where Wodehouse spent most of his childhood under the care of various Aunts. He attended boarding school, and receive a secondary education at Dulwich College in London.
Wodehouse wrote various things during college, but his father didnÃ?Â¹t
approve of his becoming a writer. After graduation he went to work at the London branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.
Wodehouse began his literary career with his own column called By The Way, which appeared in Punch and the London Globe. His work took him to the United States, and France.
In the early 1900s Wodehouse published A Prefect’s Uncle, and Mike, but neither were a huge success.
In 1914 he met Ethel Newton, a widow, and married her eight weeks later. He also adopted Ethel’s daughter, Lenora. Later he began writing musical comedy for New York and Hollywood, although he had no interest in the film business.
In 1917 Wodehouse introduced two new characters, Wooster and Jeeves, in a short story entitled Two Left Feet. Shortly afterwards, he made his breakthrough with the novel Piccadilly Jim. Six years later he returned to Wooster and Jeeves and achieved world wide fame with The Inimitable Jeeves, a parody of British aristocracy.
In 1934, Wodehouse wrote Thank You, Jeeves, which was immediately greeted as one of his very best. In addition to writing novels, Wodehouse often collaborated with Guy Bolton to write Broadway musicals. He is well known for Sally, Sitting Pretty, Anything Goes , and Bring on the Girls.
During World War II Wodehouse was captured by Germans and interned in Berlin. About a year later it was announced that Wodehouse had been released from internment and was living at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin.
The public was astonished to hear that he had agreed to do some “non-political” broadcasts over German radio. Wodehouse did five such broadcasts, before the Germans
took him off the air. Wodehouse also published an article he had written while in the internment camp.
The article and the broadcasts dealt mainly with Wodehouse’s humorous experiences during internment, but the British did not care to make a joke of it.
They were particularly offended when he said “I never was interested in politics. I’m quite unable to work up any kind of belligerent feeling. Just as I’m about to feel belligerent about some country I meet a decent sort of chap. We go out together and lose any fighting thoughts or feelings.”
The broadcasts made him liable to charges of treason and he was unable to return to England. When the war ended, Wodehouse settled on a ten-acre estate in Long Island. In 1955 he became an American citizen.
From 1902 to 1974 Wodehouse wrote nearly 100 novels, about 30 plays and 20 screenplays. He Wodehouse died in Long Island on February 14, 1975. He received knighthood a few weeks after his death.