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What Ho, Adolf (Sunday, 18th November, 2001, The Observer, Review section). Extracts from the first two pages of the Review section.

By Robert McCrum.

The article starts by listing the Wodehouse biographer’s five difficulties:

  1. Wodehouse’s "colossal output".
  2. His longevity. He died aged 93 having "outlived almost all his family and contemporaries."
  3. "Even with those close to him, he was never very forthcoming."
  4. "His memory is still revered ... Other admirers include ... perhaps most bizarre of all, Gerry Adams."
  5. "That the creator of Jeeves and Gussie Fink-Nottle should find himself associated, however loosely, with Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels is the fifth and most obdurate problem in writing about Wodehouse."

The article continues:

"If there is one part of his long and extraordinary life that deserves the closest scrutiny and analysis, it is his experience in occupied Europe from the fall of France in May 1940 to the liberation in June 1944. Here, the enduring juxtaposition of the utterly frivolous and the profoundly sinister mirrors his own record of events, and it’s here that the five obstacles to a life of Wodehouse combine into an almost intractable block on the path to enlightenment ..."

Wodehouse was living in Le Touquet when war broke out.

"Wodehouse, who was then 58, was interned as an enemy alien in the grim Citadel at Huy ... You can arrange, as I did, to have a guided tour of the citadel with ... members of the Drones Club of Belgium ... These Belgian Drones attract some remarkable Wodehouse fans ... On this occasion they are joined by Muhammed Zamir, the Bangladeshi ambassador to Belgium, Roger Jannssens, a professor of arts from the University of Louven and Bob Whitby, an octogenarian who is one of the select few who can say that he was interned with Wodehouse in 1940."

"His presence at the dinner is symbolic of the way in which, behind the insouciant moonshine of the Wodehouse world, there is rather more pain, even suffering, than the writer himself liked to admit.

"To understand this, you have only to talk to Bob Whitby. This old gentleman is a remarkable survivor. Now 80, but with the bearing and the handshake of a much younger man, he is one of that tiny group of survivors who can claim actually to have met ‘Plum’ Wodehouse. More than that, he was actually interned with him, witnessing at first hand an experience that Wodehouse himself would retrospectively describe as ‘really great fun’.

"Whitby is now a Belgian citizen, but he was born half English, the eldest son of a First World War English major who married an Antwerp girl after the Armistice. In 1940, aged just 19, he was rounded up as an ‘English’ citizen, and shipped to Huy just a few days before Wodehouse and the Le Touquet contingent arrived.

"‘We were very frightened,’ he recalls, ‘because my mother had told us about the First World War, the cruelties and so on ... [and] because of the uncertainty of what was going to happen to us.’ Whitby was, he says, ‘very young’, and remembers Wodehouse in Huy with special gratitude. The older man was solicitous and kindly towards him. ‘He was very nice. He was trying to be a friend and to encourage me to make me feel better. To cheer me up.’

"Whitby’s account is of special interest because it casts new light on Wodehouse’s deep humanity in extremis. It also explores areas that Wodehouse himself was unaware of or, more likely, chose not to examine. In particular, Whitby’s recollection of the four-day train journey made by the internees across wartime Germany to their ultimate destination, another internment camp in Tost, Upper Silesia, a converted lunatic asylum in which Wodehouse would spend some 10 months, reveals what the writer could never bring himself to acknowledge: the full horror of Nazi-occupied Europe.

"Whitby again: ‘Each time the train made a stop in some station, the German guards [with] bayonets on top of their rifles ... were walking alongside the train. And sometimes, somebody who had the nerve [asked] the German soldiers, "Where are you taking us?" The answer was always "Salt mines. To the salt mines." I was scared to death of the salt mines.

"Things weren’t much better once they got to Tost. In his own account of the place, Wodehouse cheerfully liked to stress the lack of interference by the authorities: 'The great advantage of a real internment camp ... is that the internee is left to himself all through the day.’ What Wodehouse’s broadcast leaves out was something that Bob Whitby was only too well acquainted with: despair.

"Whitby now says that the psychological damage of internment was terribly damaging to many of his fellows. Unlike many co-internees, he was able, on his release, to return to Antwerp and take up the threads of a comparatively normal civilian life as a government servant. He’s a proud survivor: ‘I was young and strong. It made me stronger and harder and more determined.’ Others, however, were broken by the regime. ‘Some committed suicide in the camp. [One man] cut his throat ... one was hanged.’ Others, again, went mad; several simply gave up and died. Wodehouse, meanwhile, worked on his novel {Full Moon}, and Whitby recalls talking to him in the summer of 1941, as he sat outside at a desk with a typewriter. ‘He said "Boy, you look young, Why weren’t you released at Huy?" That was always his question ...'

"On 20 June 1941, or possibly 21 June, Wodehouse was interrupted during a game of camp cricket and taken by train to Berlin, arriving in the city on the very day the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa against the Red Army. Four days later, he made the first of his now infamous broadcasts, initially to Americans and then, in August, to Great Britain. Very few listeners actually heard these talks (which were transmitted short wave) and read today, 60 years on, they seem inoffensive enough, and mildly humorous, as he intended.

"George Orwell later commented ‘Wodehouse’s main idea in making them [the broadcasts] was to keep in touch with his public and – the comedian’s ruling passion – to get a laugh.’ In this, he failed dismally. It’s clear from the very opening that he had completely misread the mood of his audience, battered as they had been by the Blitz, the Battle of Britain and the U-boat war in the Atlantic.

'It’s just possible that my listeners may seem to detect in this little talk ... a slight goofiness, a certain disposition to ramble in my remarks. If so, the matter as Bertie Wooster would say is susceptible of a ready explanation. I have just emerged into the outside world after 49 weeks ... in a German internment camp and the effects have not entirely worn off.’

"Predictably enough, though to Wodehouse’s astonishment, there was a furore. Questions were asked in the House and cries of ‘traitor’ raised in the British press. Wodehouse always acknowledged that his action was a dreadful error of judgment. The argument about his behaviour would reverberate through the last 30 years of his life like a seismic shudder from that dark place he neither wanted to acknowledge nor explore. Nothing he ever said or did could persuade those who saw him as a traitor that he was just an innocent abroad who had misjudged his step.

"Bob Whitby’s extraordinary war story reveals a world as remote as it is possible to be from the dotty earls and vapid Mayfair Johnnies familiar to Wodehouse readers. Now in retirement, Whitby is a spry widower still living in Antwerp, modestly unaware of the crucial importance of his testimony. He provides, perhaps for the first time, a portrait of a writer concerned for his fellows, finding solace by concentrating on the one thing that made sense in a world gone mad – his ‘musical comedy without music’ – his life’s work. It’s at this moment that the various obstacles to an understanding of this solitary man seem, briefly, to disappear."

By Jove, Jeeves, they've gone and got married (Sunday Times, 4 November 2001)

What-ho! Yoicks! Pigs do have wings, and the sun will never set on Blandings Castle. In news that chuffed PG Wodehouse lovers to the core, the British chairman of the PG Wodehouse Society and the American chairwoman have just fallen in love and got married. Now ensconced in a charming London semi overlooking Muswell Hill golf course, they are locked in an appreciative embrace.

"Never mind, darling, we're fully insured," cries Norman Murphy as he and his bride teeter together on the garden balcony before me. A moment later as Elin Murphy (née Woodger), crushes his tweedy form to her womanly breast with a rollicking laugh he says, in a muffled voice: "I say, I'm supposed to be the dominant male".

This perfectly spiffing couple is enough to put a spring in the step of the most cynical observer. He is a tall and gentlemanly bean of the kind immortalised by his hero; she is sweet and womanly as befits the nicest New Yorker. Both were practically spoon-fed Wodehouse from the moment they were babies. Elin, who grew up on Long Island 45 minutes from where Wodehouse used to live, tussled with her sisters over which of his books they'd take out of the public library. She remembers "going to bed in a house full of laughter" as the entire family read him.

Far away across the Atlantic, Norman became fixated on Wodehouse for another reason entirely. He worked "far too hard" in the army, writing the NATO Handbook. He says he actually stopped a war while performing his military duties, but won't reveal where. The strain of it all can get to a chap, so he turned to Wodehouse for relief.

"I would sit there thinking that if X happened, then we were up the spout," he says, "so instead I'd go and visit places where I knew Wodehouse had lived. I'd ask some old lady, do you remember a man called Wodehouse? And boom! Of course I do, she'd say. So bang! That was another bit of the puzzle."

Gradually, Lieutenant-Colonel Murphy worked out that all his characters and places were based on real people and places. "It was like building a house out of matchsticks," he says. The idyllic world of drones, eggs and beans that was believed by many, including Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell, to be fictitious, turned out to be real.

The detective work culminated in Norman's magnum opus, In Search of Blandings. Now sadly out of print, it is admired by Wodehouse fans, including Frank Muir and the Queen Mother. "People say they're thrilled to find that Blandings Castle really exists. There are 3,000 castles in England and I've checked every one of them and it's Sudeley, bang!"

"I questioned you on Market Snodsbury grammar school," Elin reminds him. "When we visited it we found that Bertie Wooster couldn't have made his escape from the audience because the stage is too narrow."

Norman brushes this aside. "He could have if he'd gone out sideways," he says, demonstrating a mincing shuffle.

Elin, listening with the soft light of adoring love in her eyes, nods. "I just love his stories," she tells me, when Norman pops out for a calming puff on his pipe. "He's a talker and I'm a listener, but we have such a lot of common interests. I've seen him in action, and he goes up to people and gets them talking. I'd never have had the nerve."

As author of the essay, Lady Constance's Lover: Romance and Sex à la Wodehouse, she knew a romantic when she saw one.

"I told members Elin has made the ultimate sacrifice in this great cause," Norman says, but as Elin makes clear in her essay, the heart of a good egg secretly heaves with passion like a welsh rarebit at the peak of its grilling, and Norman is no exception.

They met on one of Norman's famous Wodehouse Walks round London in 1993. "Our feet were so sore by the end of it, but something else had started," she says. Elin became friends with the whole Murphy family. When Charlotte Murphy died of cancer in 1999 after a long and happy marriage, the correspondence between the American president and the British one became increasingly friendly.

Finally, they realised that in the words of the Master, they "entertained feelings that were deeper and warmer than ordinary friendship". Norman proposed and they were secretly married on October 6. The announcement of their marriage at a Wodehouse convention in Philadelphia a fortnight later was first greeted by a stunned silence. Then 150 members rose to their feet cheering wildly.

"I misquoted Bertie Wooster, as people are wont to do, and told them they weren't so much losing a chairman as gaining a chairman-in-law," says Norman.

He is 68 and Elin 47. The latter admits it "surprised the heck out of me. I thought, I'll be a spinster, that's fine, then fate went and socked me on the side of the head." She thinks of her husband as being "rather like Galahad Threepwood, the Earl of Emsworth's younger brother".

The society, which boasts 700 members in America and 800 in Britain, is burgeoning; there are Belgian, Dutch, Swedish and Indian societies too, and the Germans are just starting one. Wodehouse's reputation, unjustly tarnished after his mildly satirical broadcasts to America on what life was like as a German internee in 1940, is hotly defended.

"He didn't know what was going on," Norman says of his hero. "He didn't know Britain was being bombed, he wrote those pieces to show his American friends he was alive and well. But then, as now, a war raises people's emotions and makes them lose their sense of humour."

In these dark and dismal days, Wodehouse's world remains, as Evelyn Waugh put it, "the original Garden of Eden from which we are all exiled". With the chairmen of the British and American Wodehouse societies standing shoulder to shoulder in matrimony, or rather folded in each other's arms, it's hard not to feel that they have discovered paradise a lot sooner than the rest of us.

Amanda Craig

It's all tickety-boo for the Wooster couple (The Times, Saturday October 27 2001 page 2)

By Emma Hartley

It is a romantic tale of which even a confirmed bachelor such as Bertie Wooster would approve. The respective chairmen of the British and American P.G. Wodehouse societies have fallen wonderfully in love and married.

Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Murphy, 68, was married to Elin Woodger, 47, this month after proposing to her in Wodehouse's adopted home town in New York State, Remsenburg.

They were married in Long Island on October 6, but kept their church ceremony quiet until the first evening of the biannual Wodehouse conference which took place a week later in Philadelphia.

Colonel Murphy, a retired former British representative to NATO, said "On the first evening of the convention I called for silence and asked the committee and UK secretary to come and support me on my right and the committee and US secretary to come up on my left.

"I talked about the liaison and co-operation between these two great Wodehouse societies and added that the American president, Miss Elin Woodger, agreed this was a very worthy ambition.

"In fact so important did she consider it that last Saturday she made the final sacrifice in this great cause.

"There was a puzzled silence.

"I said ‘I'm delighted to inform you that last Saturday the president of the American Wodehouse Society (I paused) married (I paused again) the chairman of the P.G. Wodehouse Society (UK).'

"There was a stunned silence, so I went on, ‘Elin and I are wife and husband'. Then there was a roar of applause and about 150 miscellaneous Wodehouse enthusiasts rose to their feet. The roof came in."

Like Wodehouse's observations in The Girl in Blue that love often requires "long months before it comes to the boil", the pair were longtime friends before romance blossomed.

Colonel Murphy's first wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Helen, were firm friends with Miss Woodger after they had all met in 1995 on one of his patented walks round London, called Bertie Wooster's Mayfair.

Charlotte died in early 1999. Several months later Miss Woodger visited Britain for a Wodehouse conference where the pair met again and, after more time, began to go out together.

"I think of Norman as being rather like Galahad Threepwood, the Earl of Emsworth's younger brother", said Mrs Woodger-Murphy shortly before today's blessing at St Michael's Church in Wood Green, North London.

"He is a man with a lot of stories. It doesn't matter what you're talking about, he's always got something for the occasion.

"I remember the first day I met him he asked me where I was from and I told him Everett, Massachusetts.

"He said ‘Everett, Everett, Everett. Did you know your town was named after ..." and told me the story of my home town. So I realised right from the beginning I had met someone very special."

For her part, Mrs Woodger-Murphy has long been known by her Wodehouse Society nom-de-plume of Aunt Dahlia, after Bertie Wooster's impressive aunt who, like Elin, was a writer and editor.

Richard Briers, who is president of the British P G Wodehouse Society as well as the best known voice of Bertie Wooster on the radio, reacted with delight when he heard the news.

"That's absolutely tickety-boo. What can I say about Norman? He's a brilliant man and obviously Elin, as a Wodehousian, is brilliant too, so we should be OK. Not half.

"I wish them a joyous union — hands across the sea in no uncertain terms."

He added "As Bertie would say under the circumstances, shortly before heading to the Drones Club to celebrate, ‘Top hole, Norman!' Absolutely wonderful."

The Times, Saturday October 27 2001, page 2, just under "It's all tickety-boo for the Wooster couple", another Wodehouse article:

A fictional alliance that always landed the chump in a pickle

By Tim Reid

P. G. Wodehouse would have heartily approved of the cross-Atlantic union: he married his wife, Ethel, in 1914, and the two were still going strong when the author died in 1975. Bertie Wooster was rather less keen on tying the knot.

Despite 19 engagements and many near misses Wodehouse's most eligible bachelor never married, thanks mainly to the genius of his redoubtable valet Jeeves. He extricated his master from many scrapes and took a very dim view of the prospect of a woman taking over Sir's affairs.

Bertie was basically allergic to marriage, but on one occasion at least was genuinely keen, when he popped the question to Pauline Stoker. But poor Bertie was thwarted. Her father was warned by Sir Roderick Glossop that Bertie was "loony" and that was that.

Three other proposals were voluntary: to Cynthia Wickhammersley and Vanessa Cook (both rejected), and Aline Hemmingway, although that occurred in a magazine version of a story. Fifteen engagements were imposed on him, often owing to Bertie's aim to play the preux chevalier. Sometimes asked to marry, he could never say no, landing himself in the most terrible pickle.

He was affianced to Madeline Bassett (four times), Stiffy Byng, Vanessa Cook (the same girl who rejected him previously), Florence Craye (four times, and she had many fiancés: there was talk of setting up a club called the Old Florentians), Honoria Glossop (twice), Pauline Stoker (this time at her father's insistence, she having been found in Bertie's pyjamas and Bertie's bed; Bertie was of course as shocked as anyone to find her there), Trixie Waterbury and Bobbie Wickham.

Observing married friends was another reason why Bertie fought shy of the aisle. In Very Good, Jeeves, he asks his manservant: "Are wives very often like that? Welcoming criticism of the lord and master, I mean?"

"They are generally open to suggestions from the outside public with regard to the improvement of their husbands, sir."

Bertie says: "That is why married men are wan, what?"

Wodehouse recognised, however, that sometimes avoiding marriage was impossible. In Ring for Jeeves, Jill Wyvern insists to her father that she is not going to marry Lord Rowcester. Wodehouse writes: "It seemed to Colonel Wyvern that his child must be suffering from some form of amnesia, and he set himself to jog her memory.

"'Yes, you are,' he reminded her. 'It was in The Times.'"

Two articles, one in The Times and one in the Observer, following the publication of Volume 8 (the last) of the Millennium Wodehouse Concordance.

Good egg tells all
Bertie (Philip Howard) Wooster relishes the chance to review the book of the millennium

I say. Dash it! This makes one's eyes start from their spheres like qs upon the fretful p. Like the chap in Omelet who bumped into the ghost of his father on the battlements and not surprisingly went off his rocker thereafter. Jeeves knows his name. But it is a bit much to land one with on one's first day back from the annual jaunt to Deauville with bucket and spade.

Nevertheless the features editor is She Who Must be Obeyed. She is the girl who opens beer bottles with her teeth and wears barbed wire next to her skin. And I can see that Bertram is the people's choice for the task that she has in mind.

This is to announce the book of the millennium. Today, The Millennium Wodehouse Concordance is published. Scholars of the calico (if that is the word I am groping for) of the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn have been toiling over it for ten years. It has eight vols and more than 600,000 words. And it details every character, place allusion and meaningful cough in the works of the Master.

Rotters may ask: "Why select Bertram for this task? Are there no Regius Professors available in the Long Vac? Would you sell yourself for gold?" To them I reply: "Certainly, and the more gold the better. You forget that I won the Scripture Prize under the learned Reverend Aubrey. You ignore the fact that my article on ‘What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing' is still spoken about with awe in the watering holes of Docklands."

The Napoleon of the great concordance is Tony Ring of the P.G. Wodehouse Society. A thoroughly good egg. In fact I have put him up for the Drones Club, and have every confidence that he will be elected without a single black ball or bread roll being chucked in his direction. Today's final vol is called Wodehouse with New Friends. And it deals with the singular bit-players. For some reason Jeeves calls them the Spear-Carriers.

The stars, of course, such as me and Jeeves, Lord Emsworth and Mulliner, feature in earlier vols. But I have been amazed how much more Master Ring knows about me and me and my friends than I know myself. I have discovered 17 different cousins cognate and agnate (whoever they are) whom I never even knew existed. Here be not just dragons and goofs, but all seven Kegley-Bassingtons, all the many Marvis Bays in the mighty oeuvre, and references to everyone from Moses to de Gaulle.

I'll bet that there are entries in here that would stump Jeeves, even after a month on sardines. For instance, who is "Sartines"? Got you there, I think. But then I've got the book open in front of me. Paul Sartines is an acquaintance of Jules Priaulx. He employed Jules' nephew Jean as his secretary to assist in the preparation of his 'Istory of the Cat in Ancient Egypt.

And this vol contains a scoop that would make Lord Carnarvon and Heinrich Schliemann gnash their teeth in envy. The indefatigable Master Ring has discovered a Wodehouse novel dating from 1912 which it appears has been completely rewritten in 1931 for serialisation.

Jeeves tells me that the bibliographical minutiae in this concordance are exhaustive. He may mean exhausting. Certainly in reading some of the denser tables, a drowsy numbness pains my sense, as though of wedlock I had drunk, or whatever it was that the chappie said. But even I can see that this is a work of loving scholarship that is usually devoted to the lesser works of Marcus Aurelius.

Scholars will find this book a treasure house. But even goofs, eggs, beans and crumpets like me will find that the concordance opens the door on a golden Never Never land. Idiots said that Wodehouse was an arch-reactionary or even a Fascist, like Spode in his black footy shorts. But when Plum showed a political slant, it was to ridicule Fascists and expose Rachmanite landlords. Wodehouse claimed to have no message. But in a world of stress, he is therapy for millions. Many have tried to imitate him. But, like Jeeves, he is the Nonpareil, the Preux Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. Now, like the Bible and Shakespeare, Wodehouse has his own concordance. Come in and join us. It's warmer inside the World of Wodehouse.

From The Times on Saturday 15th September 2001 section 2 p. 6.

What Ho, Woodward!

Murray Hedgcock submits: Beachcomber's column of the Daily Express on 28th & 29th May had a "new" Wooster story related to the election.

TODAY we publish an extract from a newly discovered story by the late PG Wodehouse. Any similarity with anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

WHAT HO, WOODWARD!

"Jeeves," I announced, "we have a problem.
"I am sorry to hear that, Sir," he sympathised. "May I enquire as to the nature of the problem?'
"Indeed you may," I said. "And you may not only enquire into the problem's nature, but you may assist in its solution. Old Spotty Woodward has got himself into a bit of a tangle, and you could be the very man to extricate him."
Jeeves gave me that enquiring look he does with his eyebrows, so I told him the full story, just as Spotty had told it to me when I bumped into him at the Drones the previous night.
He was sitting on his own looking morose when I first spotted him. "Bertie," he sighed as I hove into his line of view. "Bertie, Bertie, my dear Bertie," and he continued Bertieing for some time, leaving me only time for a couple of Spotties when he paused to draw breath. Only when he took a swig from a veritable stonker of a glass of brandy did I have a chance to ask him what was up.
"The game is up," he replied. "My life and career is up."
Spotty, I should explain, is an MP, but a decent enough cove for all that. Indeed, I would go further and say that he is as decent a cove as a chap could hope to weigh his anchor at. And despite his covishness, being an MP seems to suit him. It's a pleasant drive from his seat in Oxfordshlre down to town, and the job's almost painless since he had a division bell installed in the Drones.
Anyway, some time ago, he went off to some Westminster hostelry with some other MPs and they were so friendly that he agreed to join their side. His own bunch seemed to be going to the dogs, so it seemed a good idea.
At that stage in the story, Jeeves interrupted for the first time: "Might I enquire, Sir," he asked, "whether his judgement was impaired at the time."
"As impaired as a newt's, I should say" I replied, "but he signed the documents and has only now read the small print. Would you believe it? Part of the deal is that he's being parachuted into somewhere called St Helen's."
"And he didn't know he was agreeing to this?" Jeeves asked.
"He says they may have mentioned it, but all they told him was that it was a place associated with rugby. They didn't say it was the wrong sort of rugger. They're two players short of a full side, if you ask me."
"Surely this is the sort of little misunderstanding that can be sorted out by a quiet word between Mr Woodward's butler and the PM's," Jeeves suggested.
"As usual, Jeeves, you've hit at the very nub of it The problem is, you see, that Spotty neglected to inform the PM that he has a butler, And that, Jeeves, is where you come in. Jeeves, I want you to go to St Helens and pretend not to be Spotty's butler, Lamont."
I'd have thought that was a simple enough instruction, but Jeeves, for all his fine qualities, is not always the quickest on the uptake.
"But I'm not Mr Woodward's butler, Sir," he protested.
"Exactly!" I confirmed "That's what will make the pretence all the more convincing."
He still looked sceptical, so I spelt out the plan.
"People have been telling the PM that Spotty has a butler, which could be disastrous for his ambitions in the new party. We couldn't possibly get rid of Lamont, of course. Poor old Spotty can't even knot his own bow tie for himself. So I want you, Jeeves, to pop up to St Helens and do a lot of high-profile buttling around Spotty. You know the routine: catch him as he parachutes in and fold up his chute neatly."
"How will that help, Sir?" he asked.
I seemed to have caught Jeeves on a particularly sluggish day, mentally speaking.
"You buttle a bit," I said, "so everyone thinks you're Spotty's butler. Then, after a couple of days, I turn up in St Helens, reclaim you as my own manservant, and everyone will realise that you were only on loan to help out an old friend. The rumours will cease, and Lamont will he able to resume his duties in peace."
"Are you sure this will work, Sir?" Jeeves asked, dubious as ever.
"You can wager your woollen socks on it," I assured him and, confident that Jeeves would perform his role to perfection, I packed him off on the St Helens train.
Three days later, having given even the slowest-witted of the populace time to reach the conclusion that Jeeves was Spotty's butler, I arrived at St Helens myself. As I stepped onto the platform, who should I see but Spotty himself.
"Spotty!" I hailed him. "Spotty, over here!"
Only when he turned did I notice that his eyes were bulging and his face purple with fury.
"Don't Spotty me, you turncoat," he said accusingly. Your man Jeeves has wrecked my election prospects. Take him away at once."
He was too apoplectic to enlarge on his complaint, but Jeeves later explained that he had inadvertently primed Spotty incorrectly on the name of the St Helens' mascot, which made him look a total ass on television. I didn't see Spotty for another three months, when he appeared once again ensconced behind a brandy glass at the Drones.
"Ah Bertie," he beamed at me. "Bertie, Bertie, my dear Bertie."
"Spotty?" I enquired.
"Election lost. St Helens escaped. Back home. Life is beautiful," he said, before gliding elegantly under the table.
Things seem not to have turned out badly for Spotty after all.

Post-election Postscript

In 1997 a certain S Woodward had been elected Conservative MP for Witney, Oxfordshire. In 2000 he joined the Labour Party. He apparently has a butler, and his wife is one of the supermarket Sainsburys. In the June 7th 2001 general election he stood as Labour candidate for St Helens South.  But to prove that all similarity between him and Beachcomber's fictional character is coincidental, mark the sequel: the real Mr S Woodward won the seat handsomely, with a majority of 8,985.

Ghastly floater in The Times

9th May, 2001: "Woodhouse". Can you believe it? In the third leading article (p. 19, bottom left) advertising "The Good Cricket Ground", they look back to the days when writing and playing cricket went together: ..... Card-carrying Romantics Lamb, Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt all enjoyed a gentle stroll to the wicket. Edwardian literary types were barely out of whites. When P. G. Woodhouse wanted an afternoon in the sunshine he had only to summon the likes of J.M. Barrie, Hugh De Selincourt and Arthur Conan Doyle. ..... True, except for the spelling. And not only Wodehouse. Everyone who's read "Wodehouse at the Wicket" knows it should be a small d in "Hugh de Selincourt", but that isn't a howler on the same disgraceful scale as "Woodhouse".

Much better news from the Daily Telegraph

Their first leading article (9th May, 2001, p. 23 top left, on the announcement of the General Election by our patron, Mr Blair, begins, begins mark you: ..... There is a P G Wodehouse story in which Bertie Wooster finds himself having to give a speech at a girls' school. After some humming and hawing, the panic-stricken Bertie eventually passes on a tip from one of his uncles: "Did you know that if you stand opposite Romano's in the Strand you can see the clock on the Law Courts?" before falling silent. At least his words were true, and interesting.

Tony Blair, by contrast, deliberately picked a girls' school yesterday to announce the election. ..... They ought to know better than to put in quotation marks an unchecked quotation, but that is often Wodehouse's fate. And even if their words are not Wodehouse's and perhaps not quite true (it was outside Romano's you had to stand, not opposite) they are close to the spirit of the Jeeves story.

They have, two pages later, the obituary of Charles Bovill, a scientist son of C H Bovill, who wrote lyrics with Wodehouse. "His [Charles Bovill's] father, C B Bovill, a successful playwright, employed a youthful P G Wodehouse as an assistant and had a number of plays running in the West End." Together they also wrote that little-known but excellent book A Man of Means. If they had even looked at the dustjacket of that book they might at least have got his initials right.

Eight out of ten for the Daily Telegraph. The Times must stand in the corner.

Billy Griffith Letters

Murray Hedgcock writes:

Today's Telegraph [24 June 2001] leads page five (with pix) on the PGW letters sent Billy Griffith to be auctioned on behalf of son Mike at Christie's in June - "expected to fetch £8,000 to £12,000". The treatment is none too complimentary i.e. "Wodehouse was as snobbish as some of the characters in his novels", on the grounds that he opposed Hutton's appointment as England captain, because he would be "a loss on the social, speechmaking side".

To which, having read the article himself, John Fletcher adds:

This generally unsympathetic article by Will Bennett calls PGW "an arch-reactionary who regretted that charm or sporting prowess alone no longer guaranteed a place at Oxford and Cambridge and who deplored the loss of cricket's amateur status". You would not recognise in this "arch-reactionary" the man who made Psmith, one of his greatest heroes, a Communist journalist engaged on bringing down rack-rent landlords in New York.

He refers again to the "ill-judged though essentially harmless broadcasts for the Germans" but they were "for" the Americans, not "for" the Germans as Wodehouse saw it.

But it does get better, Mike Griffith saying of PG's letter-writing, "It is extraordinary that he took the trouble to write such fantastic letters – his output was amazing".

Call A Spode a Spade

In an article about the Mosleys, Diana and Oswald, the journal Le Point, 6 avril, 2001, on its Culture pages, prints

'P. G. Wodehouse pouvait bien le satiriser dans "Le cercle des Wooster" sous les traits de Roderick Spade, leader des Shorts noirs, ..."'            --- contributed by our Paris Correspondent

Norman Atherton Wodehouse, CBE
Captain of England's Rugby Football team 1913

The Daily Telegraph on 12th January noted that the Rugby Football Union were trying to trace surviving relatives of Vice-Admiral Wodehouse. In 1913 he captained the first English team to win the Grand Slam and his name is to be placed on the Wall of Fame at Twickenham.

Born in 1887, he was the third son of P.G.'s uncle, the Reverend Frederick Armine Wodehouse, Rector of Gotham. He entered the navy as a boy, went through the Britannia Naval College, and served in both World Wars. He died at sea in 1941.

PG once wrote that he had not met him but was proud to claim a captain of England as a cousin.

If you can help, contact Jed Smith, Curator, Twickenham Rugby Museum

Egyptian Gazette, 28.1.01

David Mackenzie from Philadelphia reports that the Egyptian Gazette, January 28, 2001, published in English in Cairo, quotes a review (taken from The Observer) of "Reading Lyrics" by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, which gathers 1,000 show lyrics, with comment:

"It (the book) also, by the way, illustrates the connections between Tim Rice and PG Wodehouse ... Gottlieb and Kimball also make clear something often forgotten: that it was 'performing flea' PG Wodehouse's genius, with Kern's music, to bring sassy, idiomatic life to a form that been been twee (sic) - something of which Irving Berlin is all too often accused. This volume shows his great wit and invention."

News Item, The Times, Saturday, January 27, 2001. Page 1.

"A little-known American professional golfer has scored a hole-in-one on a par-four hole in a tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona. Andrew Magee’s three-under-par score is what is known in Britain as an albatross and in the US as a double-eagle ... Since the formation of the USA PGA Tour in 1930 no player has achieved what Magee, 38, did in the first round of the Phoenix Open at the Tournament Players Course at Scottsdale. In European tournaments only one player has done the same ... On the 333-yard 17th he hit his ball so well and accurately that it bounded to the front edge of the green. Even then the shot needed that little bit of extra luck to turn a great stroke into a record-breaking shot. After his ball rolled on to the green it struck the putter of Tom Byrum, one of three competitors in the group ahead, and ricocheted eight feet into the hole ..."

This inspired a leading article (page 25 of the same newspaper) as follows:

THE ALBATROSS OF ANDREW
An inspiration to all those in peril on the tee this morning

The desert sun was shining on the periscopes and sunglasses of the happy throng. The only sound was the braying of the blazered marshals and the clicking of ten thousand cameras. It was the sort of morning that makes you think of going out and shouting: "Fore!"

The young man in Bermuda shorts was hurrying past the grandstand on the 18th green on his way to the corporate shopping marquees and hospitality area. He was halted in his tracks by the voice of the Oldest Member. The voice asked, with courteous gravity: "Did I ever tell you the story of my nephew Andrew's king albatross on the 17th at the Phoenix Open?"

The young man started like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons. The Oldest Member has been sitting by the 18th green of various courses for 75 years now, ever since Wodehouse proposed him for the golf club. Once he sipped lemon and seltzer through a straw. Today he sucks vodka and Red Bull through an invalid's cup. "I was just going to ...." said the young man. "Let me tell you the story of my nephew Andrew's king albatross," said the Oldest Member, holding the young man with his glittering eye and skinny hand. "It will interest you."

The young man sighed. But he knew when his time was up. The Oldest Member as usual carried on regardless: "You will remember some astonishing tee-shots. Harry Vardon's over the Alps on the 17th at Prestwick? James Braid’s immortal drive with huge fade on the road hole at the Royal and Ancient? Nicklaus's albatross in-off a Troon seagull. My nephew Andrew Magee has just outdriven even them."

The young man sighed and looked at his watch. The Oldest Member droned on remorselessly. "Critics say that my nephew should be called Magoo rather than Magee. While other golfers are content to peck cautiously at the ball, Andrew never spares himself in his efforts to do it a violent injury. Usually his only problem is that he stands too close to the ball after he's hit it. But on the 17th yesterday, he wound himself up like a cobra and let fly, before he should. Because his opponent had not yet cleared the green. For once he hit the ball in the midriff. It flew like an Exocet for 330 yards. Hit the putter of his opponent. Changed direction. Thought about it. And trickled into the hole."

"An albatross, three under par, is the rarest bird at golf. Most of us manage to miss a spectacular hole in one - by only seven strokes. Nobody in PGA history has ever struck such a royal albatross before. For you, young man, and all those setting out on the great game this morning, my nephew Andrew's biff is a triumphant example of hope over experience."

Sir Humphrey as Jeeves
From The Times, Times 2, page 23, 4 December 2000:
In an interview Jonathan Lynn answers the question "What inspired Yes Minister?" (which he wrote with Tony Jay) as follows:

"People used to accuse me and Tony Jay of being cynics, but I'm not sure that we were. Perhaps we were just realists. There is something universally funny about Yes Minister, which if you look closely is a well-tried comic formula about the master who is less able than the servant, which is the same as Jeeves and Bertie Wooster."

The Strange Case of PGW, Paxman, and the Enigma machine …
Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard began it all on October 18, under the enticing headline: "Enigma of the revolutionary P. Smith", writes Murray Hedgcock. This recorded "a new twist" in the saga of the Enigma coding machine which disappeared from Bletchley Park, to re-appear on the desk of Newsnight's feared interrogator, Jeremy Paxman. Allegedly sent by one P.Smith, from a fictitious address in the salubrious Birmingham suburb of Edgbaston, the delivery sparked a quick sally from Robert McCrum, literary editor of the Observer, who as we know is working on an authorised PGW biography for Penguin.

"In Wodehouse's novels, Psmith was an Old Etonian socialist trying to overthrow society. He believed property was theft. Thames Valley Police would be well advised to read all of Wodehouse's 99 works before they take any further action", he advised. "P.Smith could be a vital clue and a major breakthrough. They should concentrate their inquiries on the region of Blandings Castle."

Skipping the dubious claim that the languid Psmith would ever do anything as active as try to overthrow society, Wodehouseans rushed to the e-mail keyboard. Next day, the Diary ran a cartoon of Paxo in his alternate role as presenter of University Challenge, asking the line-up (P.Smith, J. Smith, Jones and Brown) - "Oh come on, Balliol, surely you know who stole this Enigma machine!"

A linked item said rather smugly: "Jeeves fans have corroborated my theory about the identity of P.Smith. Wodehouse named his gentleman's gentleman after the Warwickshire all-rounder Percy Jeeves, a legendary figure at Edgbaston cricket ground. 'Perhaps police should start there', says Murray Hedgcock of the Wodehouse Society." Simplistic, compared with the carefully crafted argument set out in my email - but all publicity is welcome.

The matter was taken up on Sunday by The Browser, diarist in the Observer Books section (and no doubt an outlet for biographer McCrum):

"It did not take The Browser long to solve the riddle of Jeremy Paxman's Enigma machine. Armed with the vital clue - the name of the sender, a certain P. Smith - he put the squeeze on the obvious bestselling literary suspect, who was soon singing like a canary.

"'It was stolen', Mr Psmith told The Browser, 'at the direction of Sir Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts, in a vain attempt to secure a fascist victory in the Second World War. Too late did he realise the war was already over ... Jeremy Paxman is actually Martin Bormann, cunningly disguised by plastic surgery. But not many people know that'."

And with this revelation that Spode, first just Mister, and later Lord Sidcup, was in fact knighted, or a baronet, the matter rests - for the moment ...

By Godfrey Smith in The Times, 21 October:
The gloom lifted miraculously when I arrived on Thursday at the glittering dinner thrown in Gray's Inn by the PG Wodehouse Society in honour of the Master's birthday. It's an outfit that counts among its many patrons Tony Blair and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Fry and Richard Ingrams. Once again that great Wodehouse scholar the Queen Mother sent us a special message. She was sorry she couldn't be with us, but "as Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright once said: 'May you all have a binge to stagger humanity.'" Griff Rhys Jones proposed the health of the society in a high-octane speech; then we were diverted by an entertainment called The Hot Spot. The Master, I reflected, had not made much impact on the industrial heartland either. But he'd left the world a much happier place. There's more to life than silicon chips.

From The Times, 20 October:
P G Wodehouse Society (UK)
Mr Richard Briers, president of the P.G. Wodehouse Society (UK), was the host at the society’s birthday dinner held last night at Gray’s Inn. Mr Griff Rhys Jones proposed the toast to P.G. Wodehouse and the Society, and Miss Lara Cazalet, Miss Lucy Tregear, Sir Edward Cazalet, Mr Simon Day, Mr Ted Hands, Mr Tim Taylor and Mr Ned Sherrin provided entertainment. Among others present were: The Spanish Ambassador and the Marquesa de Tamarón, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, Lord Oaksey, Lord Scott of Foscote, Sir Richard Body, Sir Simon and Lady Hornby and Sir Robert Johnson.

Click here for a review of Sunset at Blandings, from the Yorkshire Post.

Competition
Today's [Friday, 23 June 2000] London Daily Mail, reports Murray Hedgcock, records the outcome of a competition seeking Lord Emsworth's family name; the precise "far from gruntled" quotation; and the link between Gussie Fink-Nottle and London's first Mayor, Ken Livingstone i.e. both newt-fanciers (some readers pointing out "they also share a preference for orange juice"). First correct answer picked "out of the topper" came from Janet Willcock of Mousehole, Cornwall (which as everyone knows is pronounced "Mouzzle"): she wins ten Everyman PGW books. The Mail declares: "Wodehouse remains the greatest popular writer of the 20th Century, marrying wild comedy, flights of fantasy, and an exquisite mastery of fantastic prose".

The Everyman Launch
The Evening Standard, 3rd May 2000, had a full-page article by Pete Clark headed simply "Plum Delightful".

"It's taken rather a long time to happen – the 25th anniversary of his death, to be precise – but that master of literary confections, PG Wodehouse, is finally to receive his just deserts. This evening, the publisher Everyman is holding a party to celebrate the launch of the complete works in hardback, an enterprise involving 80 volumes over eight years, the first ever uniform edition. Finally, Bertie Wooster, Jeeves, Lord Emsworth, Ukridge, and the rest of the comically unhinged inhabitants of the Wodehouse universe have found a decent home. "Publisher David Campbell is clearly delighted by this mammoth project. He paces round the bookshelves in his office, pulling out the first four volumes in the series, enthusing over the jacket illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski, fingering the elegant cream-wove paper, and generally extolling the virtues of books which are simply too handsome to stay on the shelves."

"As a final tribute to the art of mirth, tonight also sees the creation of an annual award for the best comic writing of the year, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize ... The winner will be announced at the Hay-on-Wye festival at the end of the month. Wodehouse, of course, would have walked it."

After the party, The Times on 4th May 2000 had two pages given over to the event. One was mainly a large close-up of Plum smoking a pipe; the other was a quarter-page of Fry & Laurie as Jeeves & Wooster, Jeeves brushing Bertie's dinner jacket, and some small reproductions of the jackets of the first Everymans: The Code of the Woosters; Right Ho, Jeeves; Ukridge; and Pigs have Wings. The rest was an article by Lynne Truss:

"The first four volumes of a handsome collectable hardback edition of Wodehouse's novels and stories has just been launched by Everyman, to join the already established new Penguin paperback. And given the phenomenal number of titles in the oeuvre (Everyman intends an 80-volume uniform edition; Penguin has already reached its 60th), he already stretches for yards. Everyman is also launching an annual prize, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize, to be given each year at the Sunday Times Hay-on-Wye festival of literature at the end of May. This year's judges are Jo Brand, Craig Brown and Stephen Fry ..."

"If you fancy being sneered at by people less intelligent than yourself, become a comic novelist. ‘People don't want to laugh,' Howard Jacobson told me last week, when we were jointly bemoaning the low status of comic writing. ‘They want to cry.' And then there is the towering presence of Wodehouse himself to contend with. When comic writing of such a high order waits on the shelf making light chitchat with the abutting giants of literature, what hope is there for the rest of us? ... Reading one Wodehouse a year makes bad mathematical sense, in any case. Start the 80 volumes at the age of 28, and – well, you see where this is leading."

And another shorter article in which Stephen Fry recycled, in the best Wodehousian tradition, some of the material from his introduction to What Ho!. It gave the five writers which Stephen Fry had announced at the party made up the shortlist for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding; Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks; The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson; The Book of Obituaries by Hugh Massingberd; Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend. The winner is to be announced at the Hay-on-Wye festival on 29th May at 11.30 am. 

The Queen Mother
The Express of 2.3.2000 has a quarter-page headed "What Ho Queen Mum, Wodehouse is a cousin". Among other things it says: "The Queen Mother has received an early and unexpected birthday present: confirmation that she and the late P G Wodehouse are cousins."
The common ancestor turns out not to be Henry VII (which might have been expected after the stories last year that Wodehouse was descended from an illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) but someone with the fictional-sounding name of Lord Vere of Tilbury. The article goes on "That makes the English humourist ... an eighth cousin of the Queen Mum ... The link was discovered by Yorkshire-based amateur genealogist Michael Rhodes."
Actually an eighth cousin once removed, according to the generations in the family tree illustrating the article. But welcome all the same to reinforce the close links between Her Majesty and all Wodehouse-followers. When Wodehouse was working in the Hongkong Bank trying to decide whether to leave it and adopt writing as a career, he asked three little Strathmore girls, the Queen Mum's cousins, whom he had met in Shropshire. They all agreed he should of course leave. Shortly afterwards his first book {The Pothunters} came out, dedicated "To Joan, Effie And Ernestine Bowes-Lyon". When Her Majesty unveiled the plaque in Dunraven Street to honour Wodehouse, she said how proud she was of that family connection. Now they are nearly the same family.

The Christie's Sale
The Christie's sale gets a nice Telegraph report on 19th February with pic. This says the PGW first editions brought almost £67,000, most going for well above estimates. Top was £2,990 for Love Among the Chickens; Mike, forecast at £800, brought £1,955. Inevitably Jeeves is Bertie's butler ... but we're almost immunised against that one. Murray Hedgcock

What Ho!
The New Statesman has the better part of a column and a half on 18th February on What Ho!, contributed by one Henry Sheen, described as "a vet and a writer" (he makes only passing mention of the Empress). This is quite thoughtful and amiable in its study of the PGW fantasy world, and the idea that "the characters are ruled by their obsessions - Gussie by his newts, Cuthbert Banks by his golf, Lord Emsworth by his Black Berkshire sow". He sums up: "As an introduction to Wodehouse, it is wholly appropriate, coupled with the input of the many Wodehouse societies across the globe, including, memorably, 'The Drones Club of Belgium'. The value of Wodehouse's legacy may be questionable, but his imaginative flair and the strange wonder of his small world are indisputable." Incidentally, NS is selling it at £12.80 "plus 15 p.c. p&p", via the web. Does "15 p.c." seem a rather feeble cop-out? Why not specify the sum? How many proper Brits i.e. those who went to public school, Oxbridge etc, can do such complex sums? Would Bertie have been capable, except with wet towels around the brow and many sheets of paper, left alone for a longish period in a quiet room? I think we should be told. Murray Hedgcock

Videos
On 10 February The Daily Telegraph ran another ad for the Jeeves & Wooster series on video. The Complete Third Series is available now at £14.99 plus £1.50 p&p. For fourth series news see Videos. Murray Hedgcock

What Ho!
Approving words about What Ho! The Best of PG Wodehouse, continue with a splendid spread in today's (30 January 2000) Sunday Express. Explaining, "Twenty-five years after the death of the man who created Bertie Wooster, William Hartston can't stop laughing," this records the writer's enthusiasm for the anthology and his unrestrained bursts of hilarity and mirth as he reads, or simply recalls, "stories and essays from the man many consider the greatest humourous writer of the 20th Century". He summarises the Wodehouse career, offers a series of PGW bon mots, and using a nice Laurie and Fry illustration from the TV series, recommends: "Read it, fall about laughing, give yourself time to recover ... then go back and it again". This also is available at a special price through the paper, at £14.98 including p&p. Murray Hedgcock

Click here for a review of What Ho!

Stephen Fry
This morning's (18.1.00) Independent has devoted the first page of its second section, the Tuesday Review, to "My Hero, PG Wodehouse, by Stephen Fry". Not only the first page, but a quarter of page 7, for this great assessment of PG's greatness. It is a condensed version of the 15-page Introduction to What Ho!, the anthology for which Hutchinson asked some of us to vote on our favourite PGW stories. What Ho! is being distributed now to Society members who had ordered it, and is available from 3 February to the general public at £15.99. Or you can order it (if you are an Independent reader) for £13.99 from TBS Direct on 01206-255800. It's good value for a hardback of 560 pages of Wodehouse. John Fletcher

Christmas in New York
'The FT reads Wooster Sauce'. On Christmas Eve, the Financial Times published 'Christmas in New York' in its Christmas books supplement. The article first appeared in Punch on 23 December 1953 and subsequently in the Christmas 1999 issue of Wooster Sauce, which is where the FT's literary editor discovered it. The article ends with details about the Society - the first time we have appeared in the FT. Hilary Bruce

Click here for a review of Francis Wheen's Karl Marx (for Wodehousians)

Latest article on those broadcasts

Perhaps we have had enough about the broadcasts. The Daily Telegraph appears to think not, although there is not much new in their article on Friday, 21 January. They are based (it says) on "government documents released yesterday" (that is, 20 January). These remarks are attributed to Wodehouse in quotation marks, writing from Berlin to the Foreign Office via Swiss representatives in Berlin:

"I am not attempting to minimise my blunder, which I realise was inexcusable, but I feel that I can place certain facts before His Majesty's Government which will show that I was guilty of nothing more than a blunder."

Wodehouse said he had wanted to speak to the Americans who had written to him during his captivity.

"I can now of course, see that this was an insane thing to do, and I regret it sincerely. My only excuse is that I was in an emotional frame of mind, and the desire to make some return for all those letters had become an obsession, causing me to overlook the enormity of my action."

And "I should like to conclude by expressing my sincere regret that a well-meaning but ill-considered action on my part should have given the impression that I am anything but a loyal subject of His Majesty."

There is also an interesting, reluctant admission from his staunchest critic, Alfred Duff Cooper, that he was innocent of breaking the law:

"There is no doubt to my mind that he has committed a grave offence for which apparently the laws of England make no provision."

The Telegraph article is by David Milward. Unlike most Telegraph articles, it is both ignorant of Plum and unsympathetic to him. As the article begins by saying that he was "captured in Paris in July 1940", when anyone who knows anything about this knows he was captured at Le Touquet, the standard of truth is at the usual low level of Wodehouse's critics. No other paper seems to corroborate them.

It is all too often forgotten that the famous talks were originally given to his fellow prisoners in the internment camp, who found them very funny and very anti-German.

Letter to Members of the UK Wodehouse Society from the Committee, being sent to them with the latest Wooster Sauce.

23 September, 1999

Dear Member,

You may well have seen recent reports in the Press of allegations concerning Wodehouse's supposed receipt of four payments from the German government in 1944, totalling 400,000 French francs (then equivalent to £1,000). The reports were accompanied by dramatic headlines including such words as 'Nazi', 'Spy' and 'In pay of Germans'. The reports are based on documents recently released by MI5. However, it is essential to bear in mind that to put them into context one must take into account the contents of a number of files of other government departments which have been in the public domain for at least several months. Taken as a whole, the conclusions reached by MI5 and sensationalised by the Press are discredited, both by the contents of these other files and by the findings of the Cussen Report. (You will probably be aware that Major Cussen interrogated the Wodehouses in Paris within a few days of the liberation and prepared a thorough and diligent report in September 1944.)

We anticipate that a comprehensive and authoritative article will be written in due course. In the meantime, we hope the following will be of interest:

1. In a manuscript comment on one memo, dated 30 December, 1946, Mr G C Allchin, Head of the Consular Department at the Foreign Office, wrote: "I think it unlikely that the payments to PGW were in reward for pro-German activities. They are probably advances from his own funds in France or derived from Switzerland or elsewhere. These funds were of course controlled by the German authorities."

2. Mr G H Wakefield of MI5 spent several months trying to obtain specific information about the four payments made between May and August 1944, presumably to add to the weight of evidence should any prosecution take place. After failing to do so, he wrote on 25 July, 1947 to Mr Allchin: "I feel fairly confident . . . that if he were doing anything at all to earn these payments - of which we have no evidence whatsoever - it was not of a very treasonable character." On receiving this letter a member of the Foreign Office staff had added "I hope that this file is now finally closed", and Mr Allchin, in his reply to Wakefield, wrote: "It looks as if the file might now be closed, never, let us hope, to be re-opened."

3. On 4 June, 1947, several months after the payments in question were known to all the authorities concerned, another member of the Foreign Office staff had commented, after receiving information from a member of his staff which had been requested by MI5: "I feel bound to observe that it seems to me most regrettable that we should still be pursuing this matter more than two years after the end of the war in Europe. I do not think that anyone would seriously deny that 'L'affaire Wodehouse' was very much a storm in a teacup. It is perfectly plain to any unbiased observer that Mr Wodehouse made the celebrated broadcasts in all innocence and without any evil intent. He is reported to be of an entirely apolitical cast of mind; much of the furore of course was the result of literary jealousies."

4. Whilst trying to assist Mr Wakefield with his investigations, the Foreign Office also conducted a search for mentions of Wodehouse in German documents, but Mr A C Johnston confirmed on 21 July, 1947 that "there is no sign of him in the lists of British broadcasters for the enemy." Had Wodehouse been engaged in any work of a propaganda nature for which he was receiving remuneration it is inconceivable that there would have been no evidence whatsoever. The Germans would have promoted his name in any such event, but nothing appeared. Major Cussen's report had been comprehensive. Some French or German nationals would have been involved in the arrangements and would have come forward with information, if only to try to mitigate any action which was to be taken against themselves. Furthermore, Alfred Duff Cooper, who as Minister for Information in 1941 had instigated the libellous attack on Wodehouse by Cassandra, was Ambassador in Paris in late 1944 when Wodehouse was arrested by the French and was in constant contact with the Foreign Office over the steps that should be taken and how a number of Parliamentary Questions should be handled. He would surely have sought additional damning facts but, for whatever reason, came up with none.

Another point highlighted by the Press last week was that, if he had returned to the UK, Wodehouse 'would have been' prosecuted, and some went so far as to imply that this decision arose as the result of the disclosure of the payments. This again is a distortion of what the files actually reveal. The Director of Public Prosecutions had previously advised that there were no grounds on which to proceed, but a letter of 18 December, 1946 to Mr Wakefield from Mr B A Hill, reporting a conversation with the Director, makes it clear that the Director's view had been influenced by a new interpretation of the law relating to broadcasts on enemy radio. The Judge in the William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) case had ruled that the motive which prompted a broadcast was immaterial. In the light of this new interpretation, the Director now believed that Wodehouse should be brought to trial so that a jury could decide his innocence or guilt in relation to his 1941 broadcasts (which had been light-hearted in content and made to a neutral America). Furthermore, the letter records that NO final decision whether or not to prosecute was taken as Wodehouse was not in the country. The hope expressed by the Foreign Office that the file could now be finally closed appears to have been fulfilled, in the longer term if not immediately. Unequivocal statements were made on the Government's behalf in 1965 when Plum was considering a visit to this country for family reasons to the effect that the question of a prosecution did not arise, and these were, of course, followed by the grant of his knighthood in 1975.

Detailed points remain to be addressed. The totality of the evidence available supports the Foreign Office view that the payments were probably from his own funds, quite possibly foreign royalties which he had disclosed to Major Cussen in his account of his financial position.

We hope that this brief outline, together with the enclosed copy of an article from The Guardian by Francis Wheen, will suffice to relieve any immediate concerns and trust that it may be possible to provide a fuller and more comprehensive report (which will, for the umpteenth time, finally close the file) with a future issue of Wooster Sauce.

Yours in Wodehouse

The Committee

Letter to the Editor

The papers have been making headlines and long articles out of apparently thin and inexplicit revelations in papers released by MI5, alleging that Sir Pelham had been a Nazi collaborator or similar. Much of this is so thin the writers have supplemented it with the same old charges long since answered by Iain Sproat's book Wodehouse at War, published in 1981. This concludes (p. 102) "It can therefore be said, as definitively as such things can ever be, that the war-time evidence collected by Cussen, combined with the new evidence I uncovered and have set out in this book, prove Wodehouse to have been innocent: of any charge of treason, innocent of cowardice, innocent of Nazi sympathies, innocent of any words or actions designed in any way whatsoever to help German war aims, and innocent of any intention whatsoever to do or say anything hostile to his own country or the Allied cause."

To reply to the new allegations, especially about "being on the Nazi payroll", the Chairman of the P G Wodehouse Society (UK), Norman Murphy, wrote this letter to the Daily Telegraph, published on 18 September 1999, under the heading "Little Mystery Over Wodehouse Broadcasts":

SIR - In all the fuss about P G Wodehouse's wartime activities, innuendo reigned supreme. The belief seems to be that the mysterious "special" payments made to him in France (report, Sept. 17) must have been made for some equally mysterious reason.

It is often forgotten that the "Berlin Broadcasts" were originally given as talks to his fellow British prisoners who found them very funny and anti-German. Unable to write in camp to anybody other than close relatives, he thought the broadcasts would show his friends in America (still neutral) that he was alive and well and had managed to keep his spirits up during captivity.

As soon as Wodehouse realised how foolish he had been, he refused to do any more. He also realised the Germans wanted to use him for propaganda and was careful to refuse any other approaches they made.

Once Wodehouse had been released from prison, how were he and his wife to live? They sold his wife's jewellery, borrowed from friends and augmented this with royalties from Spain, Sweden and other neutral countries. At least some of these royalties were paid through the German foreign office, and these seem the likeliest source of the mysterious special payments.

There is one other possibility. Werner Plack, of the German foreign office, became a friend of the Wodehouses and looked after them as well as he could. Convinced that Wodehouse would never betray his country, Plack was instrumental in saving them when the Nazis wanted to take them back to Germany from Paris. Perhaps his friendship included payments to Wodehouse under the guise of an employee, since Wodehouse had a contract with a German film company to adapt one of the novels.

The MI5 papers say the record of the special payments was passed to the British in Paris in November 1946. Wodehouse stayed in Paris till April, 1947. Why didn't anybody do anything then, especially in the atmosphere of post-war witch-hunts? Lastly, if Wodehouse had done any work for the Germans, of any sort, would we not have heard of it in the past 50 years?

N. T. P. MURPHY
London N11

Extracts from the Broadcasts

Here are three extracts from the broadcasts (as in Sproat's Wodehouse at War) to show how anti-German he was. They also show, for those who can see beyond that question, what an inspiring writer of non-fiction he could be. He describes one of the cells in France where the Germans first imprisoned him (aged 58) with two others:

"The only pictures on the walls, which are of whitewashed stone, are those drawn from time to time by French convicts - boldly executed pencil sketches very much in the vein which you would expect from French convicts, whose mental trend is seldom or never prudish. . ."

"What the morrow brought forth, at seven sharp, was the ringing of a bell in the corridor and the rattling of keys and the opening of a small panel in the door, through which were thrust three tin mugs containing a thin and lukewarm soup and three loaves of bread, a dark sepia in colour. This, one gathered, was breakfast, and the problem arose of how to play our part in the festivities. The soup was all right. One could manage that. You just took a swallow, and then another swallow -- to see if it had really tasted as peculiar as it seemed the first time, and before you knew where you were it had gone. But how, not having knives, we were to deal with the bread presented a greater test of our ingenuity. Biting bits off it was not a practical proposition for my companions, whose teeth were not of the best: and it was no good hammering it on the edge of the table, because it simply chipped the woodwork. . ."

". . .The cell smell is a great feature of all French prisons. Ours in Number Forty-Four at Loos was one of those fine, broad-shouldered up-and-coming young smells which stand on both feet and look the world in the eye. We became very fond and proud of it, championing it hotly against other prisoners who claimed that theirs had more authority and bouquet, and when the first German officer to enter our little sanctum rocked back on his heels and staggered out backwards, we took it as almost a personal compliment. It was like hearing a tribute paid to an old friend."

Those who continue to call him a collaborator or a spy, like others unearthed in the last few days, should be ashamed of themselves.

Click here for a full transcript of all the broadcasts

The New Editor of The Spectator: Bertie Wooster?

The Times (30.7.99 p. 43) reports that Boris Johnson, appointed to be editor of The Spectator, "Despite his bumbling, Bertie Wooster exterior, ... is a scoop-hunter." Judging by the photograph of a little of that exterior, he has no Jeeves to remind him that "there is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter." He is "famous for politically incorrect soundbites such as 'Her . . . silvery little skirt is so short it would be positively impolite not to have a quick dekko.' "   Bertie would surely have had much the same sentiment. "There is no doubt that he will bring charisma, fun" (true enough) "and a high level of political engagement." A rather higher level, presumably, than Bertie when canvassing at Market Snodsbury, as in Much Obliged, Jeeves. But we look forward to reading his article on "What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing."

Today's Woosters: What Research Reveals

Under a photo of Jeeves and Wooster (Fry and Laurie version), Adrian Lee in The Times (17.7.99, page 9) reports:

"... Millennium man's bachelor pad is light years away from the takeaway-strewn squalor traditionally associated with single male living, according to a new study ... The bachelor, circa late 20th century, insists on a tidy environment, modern appliances and stylish interiors owing more to Habitat than Men Behaving Badly. The report shows that bachelors are Britain's fastest-growing social group. By the end of 2000, there will be 3.3 million men living alone - an increase of 21 per cent in just two years. More than six out of ten of those aged under 35 said they were houseproud. They also enjoy experimenting with new recipes, saving money and would rather spend on their home than on a new car. Angela Hughes, head of consumer research for Mintel, which conducted the survey of 400 bachelors, said it identified a growing number of young men who 'chose to live alone and make the most of it' ... The success of 'urban lifestyle' magazines, such as Wallpaper, reflects the changing attitude of single men. Tyler Brulé, its editorial director, said 'They are in control of their lives and want their own space. The laddish culture is a bit dated.' He said developers and landlords were belatedly reacting to the demand from single young men for modern, well equipped flats, featuring power showers, galley kitchens and wooden floors ... In the 1930s, the most famous bachelor pad belonged to Bertie Wooster, the creation of P G Wodehouse. The Mayfair flat was filled with inherited furniture and cocktail glasses were never far away."

But the article did not say whether today's bachelors employ gentlemen's gentlemen.

Plum's War

"I'm going to have to mention Plum's War on Radio 4, because when it wins awards I need to be covered. Michael Butt's play about P G Wodehouse's notorious broadcasts from Berlin during the war and George Orwell's defence of Wodehouse was funny, sad, serious, pathetic, ingenious and much more. The villain of the piece was not Wodehouse but Duff Cooper, the Minister of Information, Orwell's prototype for Big Brother in 1984. Benjamin Whitrow's portrayal of Wodehouse certainly made him out to be a fool but not a traitor."

- Sue Arnold, The Observer 11.7.99

The Spectator this week (10 July 1999) had a long and good review of Plum's War, given below, about the Government's reaction to Wodehouse's broadcasts after release from internment. Wodehouse at War by Iain Sproat showed the disgraceful way the Government investigated Wodehouse's alleged crimes, found him innocent, and then kept his innocence secret for 35 years. Iain Sproat is now producing the complete translation of Pushkin into English, which coincidentally is given an even longer review in the same Spectator issue.

Politically naive
Was there ever a writer so unworldly as P G Wodehouse? I cannot think of one. He was so prolific, producing about a hundred books, that he failed to notice much of what was happening in the world around him, despite having, as his superb comedies reveal, a thorough knowledge of human nature. This week on Radio Four, an afternoon play tackled his blissful but ultimately painful innocence and the impact it had on George Orwell, Plum's War by Michael Butt.

The play is about Wodehouse's wartime internment by the Nazis and the broadcasts he made for German radio in 1941, five short, humorous and non-political talks about his spell in the camp. They led to hysterical attacks on him in the Daily Mirror and other newspapers and in one lamentable case a BBC broadcast cruelly denouncing him. Then the Minister of Information, Duff Cooper, ordered a reluctant BBC to broadcast this vicious rant and Cooper emerges as one of the main villains in the play: 'It was under Duff Cooper that I learnt that truth is malleable, that it is something that can be polished and bent until it fits the requirements of a war ...' says Orwell (Nicholas Farrell) in the play. 'Repulsive and terrifying'. The play implies that Cooper's role provided Orwell with the inspiration for Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four. This may be so though Orwell got the idea for the novel after the Teheran Conference of 1944 which divided the world up into zones of influence, and from totalitarianism generally.

So what was Wodehouse's crime? Why was he bracketed with Lord Haw-Haw and John Amery, who supported Hitler and was later executed for treason? Some people in Britain wanted Wodehouse tried for treason but he had committed no offence. Wodehouse was living in Le Touquet with his wife Ethel when the Germans
interned him. Had the car taking him to safety not broken down he would have avoided being captured by the Germans. Knowing nothing of the Nazis (strange, I know) he says of Germans to his wife in the play, 'They look after their dogs ... They can't be all bad.' I don't know if Wodehouse ever said this but it's the sort of remark one of his characters might have made, as Jeeves once commented, 'You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.'

Butt's play has a German official Werner Plack (Henry Goodman) persuading Wodehouse to deliver the broadcasts, appealing to their old friendship when both were scriptwriters in Hollywood many years earlier. Despite his misgivings, Wodehouse agrees, largely out of loyalty to a friend. He was that sort of man. Butt draws on Orwell's 1945 essay, 'In Defence of P.G. Wodehouse' for some of his material. Either in the broadcasts or an article Wodehouse wrote in the internment camp for the Saturday Evening Post, he said 'I never was interested in politics. 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.' Foolish and naive it might have been at that time but really quite harmless, as indeed the talks came to be viewed when the texts were later studied.

As it happens, Duff Cooper's former private secretary at the time, the delightful and learned Martin Russell, lives not far from me. Readers will be familiar with his lengthy correspondence about Munich. He had not heard the play when I consulted him about Cooper's role but he did suggest one inaccuracy. Plum's War has Cooper urging the Daily Mirror columnist William Connor, 'Cassandra', to attack Wodehouse in his paper and on the BBC. According to Russell, it was the other way round. The Mirror had been fiercely critical of the Government and at a boozy lunch with Cooper, Connor thought up the idea of going after Wodehouse. Cooper, presumably trying to curry favour with the Mirror, jumped at it and forced the BBC to carry Connor's nauseating broadcast in which he said Wodehouse was 'selling his country' and 'worshipping the Führer', all totally untrue but it whipped up popular feeling against him. Wodehouse was wrong to broadcast light-hearted talks on enemy radio but he did so, as Orwell points out in his brilliant essay, from a complete lack of political awareness, as well as being trapped mentally in the Edwardian era of his novels.

Russell also tells me that when Cooper was gunning for Wodehouse he and the Government was saying on the radio, it might have been real pro-German propaganda for all they knew. Also, Wodehouse's broadcasts increased the audience for German radio which was also reporting lies about British ships being sunk to undermine morale at home. It was a desperate time and poor old Plum was just as much a victim as anyone else. No one really came out of the episode well. I enjoyed Plum's War, directed by John Taylor, and Benjamin Whitrow captured beautifully the unworldliness of Wodehouse, making him sound like the rather vague and over-tolerant chairman of a posh golf club, which is probably not far off the mark.

- Michael Vestey, The Spectator, 10.7.99 (page 44).

Wooster with 100 Jeeves in the House of Commons

Two articles in The Times on consecutive days: Jeeves as 100 MPs and as Director-General of the BBC.

On Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, facing Question-Time in the Commons, Matthew Parris wrote:

"Immediately behind, a phalanx of message-carrying and emergency-briefing MPs ... Behind them sat row upon row of trained poodles to cheer and laugh, and parrot rehearsed questions prolix enough to give Prescott time to fish rehearsed answers from his briefing.

"Talk about back-up! A working-class Wooster with a hundred Jeeveses in attendance."

From The Times, p. 2, 1.7.99

And as Director-General of the BBC

To compare Jeeves with trained poodles is bad enough. But the next day Simon Jenkins had an article on the new Director-General of the BBC under the headline "Carry on Jeeves" . He described the BBC as "the ageing gentleman ... [who] is as well-meaning as the day is long. But a new Jeeves has entered his service. The man, it is said, can cleave an oyster at sixty paces."

It was Roderick Spode who had "the sort of eye that can open an oyster at sixty paces" (Code of the Woosters, chapter 2). Is the new Director-General a Jeeves or a Spode? Until we are told, how can we know whether to relax or protest?

From The Times, 2.7.99

Shulman and Laurie in the Sunday Telegraph

The Sunday Telegraph on 23rd May 1999 came up with two long Wodehouse articles on the occasion of Penguin launching their new Wodehouse series.

The first, by Nicola Shulman, is headed "Wondrous What-ho!". It concentrates on the Penguin books, and compares Wodehouse with Dick Francis, Raymond
Chandler, and Elizabeth Bowen.

The second by Hugh Laurie is headlined "Wodehouse Saved My Life". It was full of excellent stuff such as:

'If you'd knocked on my head 20 years ago and told me that a time would come when I, Hugh Laurie, - scraper through of O-levels, mover of lips (own) while reading, loafer, scrounger, pettifogger and general berk of this parish -  would be able to carve my initials in the broad bark of the Master's oak, I'm pretty certain that I would have said "garn", or something like it ...

'From the very first sentence of my very first Wodehouse story, life appeared to grow somehow larger. There had always been height, depth, width, and time, and in these prosaic dimensions I had hitherto snarled, cursed, and not washed my hair. But now, suddenly there was Wodehouse, and the discovery suddenly seemed to make me gentler every day. By the middle of the fifth chapter I was able to use a knife and fork, and I like to think that I have made reasonable strides since ...

'The first thing you should know, and probably the last, too, is that P G Wodehouse is still the funniest writer ever to have put words on paper. Fact number two: with the Jeeves stories, Wodehouse created the best of the best. I speak as one whose first love was Blandings, and who later took immense pleasure from Psmith, but Jeeves is the jewel, and anyone who tries to tell you different can be shown the door, the mini-cab, the train station and Terminal 4 at Heathrow with a clear conscience. The world of Jeeves is complete and integral, every bit as structured, layered, ordered, complex and self-contained as King Lear, and considerably funnier ...

'Wodehouse on the page can be taken in the reader's own time; on the screen, the beautiful sentence often seems to whip by, like an attractive member of the opposite sex glimpsed from the back of a cab. You, as the viewer, try desperately to fix the image in your mind -- but it is too late, because suddenly you're into a commercial break and someone is telling you how your home may be at risk if you eat the wrong breakfast cereal. Naturally, one hopes there were compensations in watching Wodehouse on the screen -- pleasant scenery, amusing clothes, a particular actor's eyebrows -- but it can never replicate the experience of reading him. If I may go slightly culinary for a moment: a dish of foie gras nestling on a bed of truffles, with a side-order of lobster and caviar may provide you with a wonderful sensation; but no matter how wonderful, you simply don't want to be spoon-fed the stuff by a perfect stranger. You need to hold the spoon, and decide for yourself when to wolf and when to nibble ...'

The Evening Standard chips in

On Monday 24th, the Evening Standard joined in under the headline "Hats off to a Jolly Good Egg". This compared Wodehouse with Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, George Orwell, Arnold Bennett, and others. It quotes Tony Blair (who besides being one of the Society's Patrons is also Prime Minister):

'I envy those who've never read him before. The prospect of reams of unread Wodehouse stretching out in front of you is, to a long-standing admirer, something which is enticing to contemplate.'

Hamlet at Chelsea Ball
Freddie Freak would be at The Landings

This snippet comes from a review of IBM's ViaVoice: a voice-recognition program to translate dictation through a microphone into words on the computer screen. They experimented with various authors but "P G Wodehouse meanwhile proved to be just what we had always suspected - inimitable". With an extract from "The World of Blandings", ViaVoice came up with:

"Hamlet's Society at Chelsea Ball must have had much the same effect on his stepfather as did battle for Freddie freak would be at the Landings on Lord Emsworth. And it is probable that what induced at the latter to keep it telescopic eye on him at this moment was the fact that his demeanour was so mysteriously jaunty, his bearing Cup so intriguingly freed from its customary crushed misery."

You may have recognised that as from about the third page of "The Custody of the Pumpkin" in "Blandings Castle and Elsewhere". The original is:

"Hamlet's Society at Elsinore must have had much the same effect on his stepfather as did that of Freddie Threepwood at Blandings on Lord Emsworth. And it is probable that what induced at the latter to keep a telescopic eye on him at this moment was the fact that his demeanour was so mysteriously jaunty, his bearing so intriguingly freed from its customary crushed misery."

From The Times, "Interface" section, 24th March 1999

Chefs of the World Unite

The same day, 24th March, the Daily Telegraph had this:

"Albert Roux, the veteran chef who trained Gordon Ramsay, has turned his attention to literary cuisine. 'I have written some recipes based on the dishes from P G Wodehouse's Jeeves books', he tells me, 'in particular the ones by Anatole, the French chef'.

"Roux, I learn, identifies with Anatole. 'I used to work for Peter Cazalet, the Queen Mother's racehorse trainer who was married to P G Wodehouse's daughter'"

For those members who want to try it out, the current Wooster Sauce has Albert Roux's recipe for "Mignonette de Poulet Petit Duc". For those who want to track down mentions in the works of The Master, it comes four times:

1. "Jeeves in the Offing": chapter 2: "Whatever spiritual agonies I might be about to undergo at Brinkley Court, Market Snodsbury, near Droitwich, residence there would at least put me several Supreme de foie gras au champagne and Mignonettes de poulet Petit Duc ahead of the game."

2. "Much Obliged, Jeeves", chapter 6: Aunt Dahlia says of Mr Runkle "I thought if I got him to stay on and plied him day and night with Anatole's cooking, he might get into mellowed mood. . .The prospects look good. He mellows more with every meal. Anatole gave us Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc last night, and he tucked into it like a tapeworm that's been on a diet for weeks. There was no mistaking the gleam in his eyes as he downed the last mouthful."

3. "Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit", chapter 19: Mrs Trotter refuses to let Mr Trotter buy "Milady's Boudoir" unless she is allowed to take Anatole away. Aunt Dahlia says to Bertie "I should be mad to face a lifetime without Anatole's cooking. That Selle d'Agneau a la Grecque! That Mignonettes de Poulet Roti Petit Duc! . . ."

4. "Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves" chapter 7: "With Aunt Dahlia's peerless chef wielding the skillet, the last place where you want to be on a vegetarian diet is Brinkley." Unfortunately Gussie Fink-Nottle, in love, has become a reluctant vegetarian and says "Night after night I had to refuse Anatole's unbeatable eatables, and when I tell you that two nights in succession he gave us those Mignonettes de Poulet Petit Duc of his . . . you will appreciate what I went through."

Well, you will appreciate it if you try out the recipes. According to Wooster Sauce M. Albert Roux is "recreating recipes for four of Anatole's most frequently remembered dishes. . ." but it is not yet clear where to look for the other three.

both contributions by John Fletcher

Which extract from PGW will you
choose to be read at your funeral?

Miss Joan Hickson, known to millions of televiewers as Miss Marple, has died. The Times, May 11, 1999, reported that, at a service of remembrance for her life and career, "Mr David Horovitch read from the works of P.G. Wodehouse, Miss Janet Suzman from the works of John Betjeman, and Mr Moray Watson from the works of Shakespeare."  A wise choice we say, with the priorities right.

I don't know which part of  Wodehouse it was, but the late Dame Agatha Christie comes into the works of the Master often enough. Beach curls up with her in his pantry. And this service had two other Wodehousian features of interest.

"A recording of Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Pigling Bland' by Miss Hickson was played during the service."  Owen Dudley Edwards suggested in the Appendix to his literary biography "P G Wodehouse", that this work was the origin of the name "The Empress of Blandings".

And one more. Do you remember whose pig it was that Gally Threepwood and Puffy Benger stole, the night of the Bachelors' Ball at Hammar's Easton, to decant it in the small hours, glowing luminously with phosphorous, in Plug Basham's bedroom?  If not, see "Summer Lightning" Chap. 3 section 4; "Galahad at Blandings" chapter 11 section 3; or "Wodehouse at Blandings Castle". But of course you do: "old Wivenhoe's pig". Talked about like that by Gally he was surely referring to the old Earl of Wivenhoe, as Jaggard calls him in "Blandings the Blest", presumably of Wivenhoe Park, Wivenhoe, Essex.

(Off the point: Wivenhoe Park was painted by Constable, and the painting was last heard of in the Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington.)

And there at this memorial service was "Councillor Mrs R O Richardson (Wivenhoe Town Council)".  God bless Agatha Christie and Joan Hickson.

John Fletcher

Wodehouse at the Wicket

An excellent and massive tribute to Murray Hedgcock's new book "Wodehouse at the Wicket" appeared on "The Hindu" website. They say "Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu & Tribeca Internet Initiatives Inc." But they don't give an email address to write to for permission. It makes three A4 pages printed out, and I am not sure how much I can copy without getting into trouble, so I will only give you a taste, which I hope will pass muster "for purposes of criticism and review".   If you like it, you can read it in full on http://www.the-hindu.com/stories/13090671.htm

Clean bowled
I HAD always imagined that "Feet of Clay" was my favourite read in Nothing Serious (1950) till I ran into "How's That, Umpire?" (also from Nothing Serious) in a fresh collection of old and new cricketing yarns that an adoring and adorable ex-student brought me recently after a visit to Bhubaneshwar. The book has an absolutely endearing title, Wodehouse At The Wicket (Hutchinson, 1997)

The slim 204-page volume - . . . is edited by Murray Hedgcock, an Australian who writes for Wisden and lives in London. . .

"Cricket is not a game. It is a mere shallow excuse for walking in your sleep'' [is Clarissa's opinion]. Her "sniffy'' fiancé is Eustace Davenport-Simms ("he plays for Essex or Sussex or somewhere'' Clarissa observes tartly) who finds her views on cricket "too subversive''. While Lord Plumpton is deep in argument "with a barely animate spectator on his left'' whether "it was at square leg or extra cover that D.C.L. Wodger of Gloucestershire had fielded in 1904'', Clarissa with "a piece of stout elastic and a wad of tin foil'' which she produced "from the recesses of her costume'' pots Lord Plumpton seated in the adjoining pavilion and knocks off his top hat. When joined by Freddie "a man in a walrus moustache who had played for Surrey in 1911'', Lord Plumpton complains of being stung by wasps in the pavilion. Whereupon that worthy retorts memorably "Not in the pavilion a Lord's. You can't get in unless you're a member''. . .

An even better cricketing story here - a brand new one at that, not found elsewhere in any previous collection - is "Reginald's Record Knock'' . . . Reggie is a batsman of sorts who goes in "just above the byes'' and who once as a boy at school "made nine not out in a house match but after that he went all to pieces''. . .

And, finally, if P.G. were alive today, he would be a grand old man - 117, if a day. What would he have thought of the World Cup? And also of India's chances in it?

Madhur Tiwary from India told John Fletcher  about "The Hindu".