As usual, we’re kicking of Book Club with some cool facts about the author, P.G. Wodehouse. Here’s a few things you may not have known about this prolific comedic author:
1. His real name was Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. It’s hard to picture looking at a tiny infant and saying to oneself, “I think I’ll name him Pelham Grenville!” but somebody did. His nickname was “Plum”.
2. He spent most of his life away from England. His father was a British judge in Hong Kong, and Wodehouse lived there until he was three years old. He was then sent to England to live with a nanny before starting boarding school. He saw very little of his parents for most of his childhood, as they continued to live in Hong Kong while we was in England. He started spending quite a bit of time in the United States in 1914. He was also fond of France and moved there in 1934. When war broke out, he stayed in France, which leads us to our next fact:
3. He scandalized Britain by making some comedic radio broadcasts while he was held prisoner by the Germans during WWII. He was branded a traitor and in fact never lived in Britain again (after France he lived in the United States). He was eventually acquitted and given a knighthood. His broadcasts seem to not have been pro-German or treasonous, but simply terribly tone-deaf to the belligerent and patriotic mood of the British who were in the middle of The Blitz. P.G. Wodehouse repeatedly expressed embarrassment at his political naiveté. Harry W. Flannery said, “Wodehouse was his own Bertie Wooster”.
4. Wodehouse became a United States citizen in 1955. He continued writing well into his nineties. He always wrote about the same time period (approximately 1910 – 1930, but with no mention of WWI or any political or social upheavals). He lived from 1881-1975.
More to read:
Georgeorwell.gov has a great essay by Orwell that defends P.G. Wodehouse and, along the way, puts the Wodehouse novels into historical context. This is the site where I found the Harry Flannery quote, by the way. The essay is long but its wonderful, thought-provoking reading.
The Paris Review has a wonderful in-depth interview with P.G. Wodehouse that was conducted shortly before his death – it’s fascinating!