PG Wodehouse by Barry Phelps (Constable, £16.95)
PG WODEHOUSE was the first "grown up" author that, as a schoolboy many years ago, I read for pleasure and delight. It was Wodehouse that first gave me a
love for good writing that not even the Oxford School of English a few years later could destroy.
I am only one of the hundreds of thousands who owe him this debt. But Wodehouse, of course, appealed to most of the great writers and minds of this century as well as to the great literary unwashed. He was that rare thing a best-seller and a genius.
It is one of the sad paradoxes of his life that he should have been cut off from England from 1939 until his death in 1975 when he was then a naturalised American. At least he devoutly loved his adopted land and at least England conferred a knighthood on him 44 days before his death at 93. Wodehouse liked to run things pretty close.
Barry Phelps, with his wellresearched PG Wodehouse: Man and Myth, gives us a first-rate account of this literary phenomenon and shows that he was not the shrinking recluse he often affected to be. Wodehouse knew, even if Wooster did not, that the world was roughly round. The book proper ends with a nice remark by a Carmelite who had been asked, on the death of Wodehouse, to say a Mass for him.
"Well 1 will since you ask me. But in the case of someone who broueit such joy to so many people in the course of his life, do you think it's necessary" Now how would Jeeves have answered that?