P. G. Wodehouse

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) was an English writer whose body of work includes novels, collections of short stories, and musical theatre. Wodehouse enjoyed enormous popular success during a career of more than seventy years and his prolific writings continue to be widely read. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse's main canvas remained that of pre-war  English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education, and youthful writing career.

An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling and by modern writers such as Douglas Adams, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Terry Pratchett. Journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens commented, "... there is not, and never will be anything to touch him."

Best known today for the Jeeves and Blandings Castle novels and short stories, Wodehouse was also a playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of 15 plays and of 250 lyrics for some 30 musical comedies, many of them produced in collaboration with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934), wrote the lyrics for the hit song "Bill" in Kern's Show Boat (1927), wrote lyrics to Sigmund Romberg's music for the Gershwin – Romberg musical Rosalie (1928), and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928).

Early life

Wodehouse, called "Plum" by most family and friends, was born prematurely to Eleanor Wodehouse (née Deane) while she was visiting Guildford. His father, Henry Ernest Wodehouse (1845–1929), was a British judge in Hong Kong. The Wodehouse family had been settled in Norfolk for many centuries. Wodehouse's great-grandfather Reverend Philip Wodehouse was the second son of Sir Armine Wodehouse, 5th Baronet, whose eldest son John Wodehouse, 1st Baron Wodehouse, was the ancestor of the Earls of Kimberley. His godfather was Pelham von Donop, after whom he was named.

When he was just three years old, Wodehouse was brought back to England and placed in the care of a nanny. He attended various boarding schools and, between the ages of three and 15 years, saw his parents for barely six months in total. Wodehouse grew very close to his brother, who shared his love for art. Wodehouse filled the voids in his life by writing relentlessly. He spent quite a few of his school holidays with one aunt or another; it has been speculated that this gave him a healthy horror of the "gaggle of aunts", reflected in Bertie Wooster's formidable aunts Agatha and Dahlia, as well as Lady Constance Keeble's tyranny over her many nieces and nephews in the Blandings Castle series.

Wodehouse's first school was The Chalet School, Croydon (now Elmhurst School for Boys), which he attended between 1886 and 1889, together with his two older brothers. In 1889, the oldest brother, Peveril, was diagnosed as having a weak chest, and the three brothers were sent to Elizabeth College, Guernsey, where Peveril could benefit from the sea air. Wodehouse remained at Elizabeth College for two years, until, at age 10, it became time for him to move to a preparatory school. Wodehouse's first prep school was Malvern House, at Kearsney, near Dover, which specialised in preparing boys for entry to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Wodehouse spent two unhappy years at Malvern House before finally persuading his father to send him to Dulwich College, where his elder brother Armine was already a student.

He enjoyed his time at Dulwich, where he was successful both as a student and as a sportsman: he was a member of the Classics VIth Form (traditionally, the preserve of the brightest students) and a School prefect, he edited the college magazine, The Alleynian, sang and acted leading roles in musical and theatrical productions, and gained his school colours as a member of the cricket First XI and rugby football First XV; he also represented the school at boxing (until barred by poor eyesight) and his house at athletics. The library at Dulwich is now named after him.

Wodehouse's elder brother, Armine, had won a classics scholarship to Oxford University (where he gained a first class degree) and Pelham was widely expected to follow in his brother's footsteps, but a fall in the value of the Indian rupee (in which currency his father's pension was expressed) forced him to abandon such plans. His father found him a position with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (now known as HSBC), where, after two years' training in London, he would have been posted to an overseas branch. However, Wodehouse was never interested in banking as a career and "never learned a thing about banking". (Some of his experiences in the bank were recounted in Psmith in the City.) He wrote part-time while working in the bank, and in 1902 became a journalist with The Globe (a now defunct newspaper), taking over the comic column from a friend who had resigned.

Wodehouse contributed items to Punch, Vanity Fair (1903–1906), Daily Express (1904) and The World: A Journal for Men and Women (1906/1907). He also wrote stories for schoolboy's magazines (The Captain and Public School Magazine) that were compiled to form his first published novels and four playlets with his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson. During 1909, Wodehouse stayed in Greenwich Village and "sold two short stories to Cosmopolitan and Collier's for a total of $500 – much more than I had ever earned before." He then resigned from The Globe and stayed in New York, where he became a regular contributor (under a variety of pseudonyms) to the newly-founded American Vanity Fair (1913). However "the wolf was always at the door", and it was not until The Saturday Evening Post serialised Something New in 1915 that he had his "first break". Around this time he began collaborating with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern on (eventually eighteen) musical comedies.

In 1914, Wodehouse married Ethel Wayman and gained a stepdaughter called Leonora. He had no biological children, and it is possible that he was rendered infertile after contracting mumps as an adolescent.

During the 1930s, he had two brief stints as a screenwriter in Hollywood, where he claimed he was greatly overpaid. Many of his novels were also serialised in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and The Strand, which also paid well.

Writing style

Wodehouse took a modest attitude to his own works. In Over Seventy (1957) he wrote:

    "I go in for what is known in the trade as 'light writing' and those who do that – humorists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at."

However, he also lightly taunted his critics, as in the introduction to Summer Lightning.

    "A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained `all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha; but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy."

His writing style is notable for its unique blend of contemporary London clubroom slang with elegant, classically-informed drawing-room English. As in: "I once got engaged to his daughter Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rockbound coast. "

Literary tastes and influence

In the above-mentioned article, Wodehouse names some contemporary humorists whom he held in high regard. These include Frank Sullivan, A. P. Herbert, and Alex Atkinson. Two essays in Tales of St. Austin’s satirise modern literary criticism; "The Tom Brown Question" is a parody of Homeric analysts, and "Notes" criticises both classical and English critics, with an ironic exception for those explicating the meaning of Browning. In "Work," Wodehouse calls the claim that "Virgil is hard" "a shallow falsehood," but notes that "Aeschylus, on the other hand, is a demon." Shakespeare and Tennyson were also obvious influences; their works were the only books Wodehouse brought with him in his internment. He frequently quotes Kipling and Omar Khayyam. Wodehouse also seems to have enjoyed the traditional English thriller; in the 1960s he gave important praise for the debut novels of Gavin Lyall and George MacDonald Fraser. In later life, he read mysteries by Ngaio Marsh and Rex Stout, and unfailingly watched the soap opera The Edge of Night. One of his characters declares "It is impossible not be thrilled by Edgar Wallace."

Major characters of primary importance

Wodehouse's work contains a number of recurring protagonists, narrators and principal characters, including:

    * Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves; his Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Agatha
    * Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle, and his large family
    * Mr Mulliner, irrepressible pub raconteur of family stories
    * The Oldest Member, irrepressible nineteenth hole raconteur of golf stories
    * Psmith, monocled dandy and practical socialist
    * Ukridge, irrepressible entrepreneur and cheerful opportunist
    * Uncle Fred (Frederick Cornwallis, Fifth Earl of Ickenham), considered, in some circles, a disgrace to the Peerage. Spreading "sweetness and light"     through impersonation

Major characters of secondary importance

Certain of Wodehouse's less central characters are particularly well-known, despite being less critical elements of his works as a whole.

    * Anatole, French chef extraordinaire, very temperamental
    * Galahad Threepwood, Lord Emsworth's brother, lifelong bachelor with a mis-spent youth and a kind heart
    * Sebastian Beach, Lord Emsworth's butler
    * Rupert Baxter, Lord Emsworth's efficient but annoying secretary
    * Major Brabazon-Plank, Amazon explorer, afraid of bonnie babies
    * Sir Roderick Glossop, intimidating psychiatrist
    * Tuppy Glossop, Sir Roderick's nephew, muscular rugby-player
    * Roderick Spode, later 8th Earl of Sidcup, amateur dictator, very tall and muscular, based on British fascist Oswald Moseley
    * Pongo Twistleton, Uncle Fred's nephew
    * Oofy Prosser, millionaire member of the Drones Club
    * Monty Bodkin, second richest member of the Drones Club (second to Oofy Prosser)
    * Bingo Little, friend of Bertie Wooster, with a complicated love-life
    * Rodney Spelvin, big, muscular golfer, inclined to jealousy
    * Agnes Flack, big, muscular, female golfer
    * Freddie Widgeon, member of the Drones Club
    * Gussie Fink-Nottle, fish-faced, socially awkward newt-fancier who cannot hold his liquor
    * Sir Watkyn Bassett, owner of Totleigh Towers
    * Madeline Bassett, daughter of Sir Watkyn, very pretty but disturbingly drippy and poetical; often voices conviction that "the stars are God's     daisy-chain" and other goofy sentiments
    * Bobbie Wickham, attractive but ruthless red-haired girl, very demanding and fond of practical jokes
    * Florence Craye, Bertie Wooster's cousin and sometimes fiancee, and author of the novel Spindrift
    * Lord Uffenham, owner and butler of Shipley Hall
    * Mike Jackson, Psmith's steadfast, cricket-playing friend
    * Archibald Mulliner, sock collector who can mimic a hen laying an egg

Extremely minor, but ubiquitous, character

    * Lord Knubble of Knopp, mentioned in Mulliner stories and Golf Stories and other stories as well; references to him are always so brief and inconsequential that they may not be fully catalogued. Most often mentioned inconnection with other characters, without actually appearing. A thin, well-dressed, "horse-faced" man, who occasionally appears at house parties and loses at cards. Very wealthy in spite of this.

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