Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) was a British humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be widely read.
While [MI5 files] suggest that Wodehouse could have been franker about his links to the Third Reich, the conclusion was that he had not consciously assisted the enemy, and that there were insufficient grounds for prosecution.
Wodehouse occupies a role in the history of twentieth-century literature that is more or less unique – though it bears points of comparison with the role of Agatha Christie. Both writers were “dated” almost before they were first published. Both were patient, hard-working, and humble enough to write what their public wanted. Both were occasionally tempted to write “something different”, but they knew that a cobbler should stick to his last.
The really great Wodehouse theme, in fact, is escape, and that's what the act of writing itself seems to have been for him -- an escape, among other things, from adult emotions and adult responsibility. His was essentially an arrested, preadolescent sensibility, which is what makes his work so pleasing, so much fun to read, and so welcome an escape for us too.
But before his literary career took off, Wodehouse (pronounced WOOD-house) had a highly successful theatrical career in the United States and in his native England, which has largely been overlooked. In his heyday, from about 1915 to 1928, he wrote lyrics for some 20 composers, among them George Gershwin, Ivor Novello and Cole Porter. But his most important collaborators were Jerome Kern, who set more than 200 of his lyrics, and Guy Bolton, who wrote the books for Kern's musicals.
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, or Plum to his friends, was an enormously popular comic novelist with a career spanning more than 70 years. His tales of Jeeves and Wooster still captivate readers today [...] Wodehouse not only wrote over 90 books, but penned plays and also lyrics for musicals like Anything Goes and Show Boat.
Wodehouse was in various German camps for about a year; he was released in 1941 just shy of his sixtieth birthday and was allowed to go to Berlin. It was there that he recorded five radio talks to be broadcast to America and England. The talks themselves were completely innocuous [...] But the response back home was not at all amused.
Can anything be more anomalous than the position of Wodehouse in twentieth century fiction? What beyond quirkiness, after all, can explain Alexander Cockburn's claim that Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves saga stands as the "central achievement in the twentieth century"? Equally extreme praise has come from Hilaire Belloc, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, and W. H. Auden, among others.
Wodehouse, like his more respectable modernist contemporaries, holds up a fun-house mirror both to the history of literary style and to the content it has expressed.
Wodehouse wrote in a style that was transparently clear, unhurried and seemingly effortless, each element smoothly clicking into place like the gears in a well-cared-for Bentley. And his sentences were also pure in the sense that they were unsullied by traffic with reality.
P.G. Wodehouse was the funniest writer in the world. Because his prolific writings spanned nearly three-quarters of a century and endured the changing scenes of two continents, he was the foremost humorist of the twentieth century.
By 1915 [Wodehouse's] first serial, Something New, was bought by the Saturday Evening Post for $3,500, and in coming decades he would become accustomed to receiving up to ten times that amount from the magazine for a novel. By the end of the 1910s, Wodehouse stories and novels had gained a sufficient high profile that they became obvious candidates for filmic treatment.
Visitors to the Wodehouse Memorial set in a neat Presbyterian churchyard in Remsenberg, are greeted by a posthumous claim made on his behalf. 'He gave joy to countless people', proclaims the elegantly etched epitaph. Rarely has a claim erred more grievously on the side of caution. Hardly adequate to describe the ceaseless ecstasy caused by the Master […] in millions of dedicated readers, through an astonishingly long period of unflagging creativity.