What ho, Mr President!
The PG Wodehouse Society (UK) announces a new President
It’s been quite a year for new Presidents. But in a distinctly non-controversial announcement, The PG Wodehouse Society (UK) is proud to declare that Alexander Armstrong has become its new President in this, its 20th Anniversary year.
In taking up this honorary post, Alexander follows in distinguished footsteps. The Society’s immediate past President was the late Sir Terry Wogan who followed the late Richard Briers.
Alexander is an enormously popular and successful comedian, actor, writer, singer and television presenter who, like Wodehouse himself, always seeks to spread laughter, sweetness and light wherever he goes.
When invited to become President of the Society, Alexander accepted immediately.
“PG Wodehouse has been a close friend since I was ten; a consoling presence throughout all of life’s hairier moments: boarding school, teenage heartbreaks, even French exchanges. And as I’ve got older the gilded worlds of Wooster and Emsworth and their repertory companies of aunts, eccentrics, love interests, and mechanicals have become more than just good company, they’re vital balm at the end of a weary day. My bedside table has always got at least one edition of Wodehouse on it, because there was never a day so good that it couldn’t be made even better by closing with a few pages of Wodehouse.”
Alexander expands on his love of Wodehouse’s work in an article he has written for the Spring edition of the Society’s journal Wooster Sauce, telling readers that, whilst living in remote Northumberland countryside and snowed-in one winter, his father introduced Alexander and his siblings to the world of Wodehouse, reading “The Great Sermon Handicap” to them as they sat round the fire. To this day, it’s Alexander’s favourite story.
“We were thrilled when Alexander Armstong agreed to be our new President,” says Hilary Bruce, Chairman of the Society. “He is the perfect choice for the Society. Alexander is loved by television viewers for his wit and his charm. His use of English and love of Wodehouse’s literature will, I believe, make him an outstanding ambassador for the Society and for PG Wodehouse’s work. His appointment gives us even more reason to celebrate.”
Alexander sums up the appeal of Wodehouse’s work thus: “Of course he is celebrated in richly-earnt raptures for his immaculate use of language, garlanded for his deceptive ease of style behind which such solid erudition lies hidden, but what I adore him for, over and above all of that, is the simple warmth of his company. In it a reader of any generation and any background – even culture – can sit happily swathed in a golden beam of benign English sunshine”.
Alexander Armstrong, a brief biography
Alexander Armstrong was born and lived near Pauperhaugh, near Rothbury, Northumberland. At the age of 16 he went to Durham School on a music scholarship, and then to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied English.
The new President is perhaps best known as one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller. He has hosted the BBC series Have I Got News For You more than 20 times and has co-presented the hugely popular TV quiz show Pointless, alongside Richard Osman since 2009. In 2011, Alexander became President of The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne and, as one of its four patrons, launched their million pound appeal to sustain its long-term future.
Alexander has published five books, most recently The A-Z Of Pointless, co-authored with Richard Osman and Land Of The Midnight Sun, in which he documented his preparations for, and adventures during his two-month trip to the Arctic for ITV. He has released two albums – A Year Of Songs, which topped the Classical Music charts, and peaked at #6 in the music album charts in 2015, and in 2016, Upon A Different Shore reached #8 in the music album charts.
“The Great Sermon Handicap”
“The Great Sermon Handicap” is one of PG Wodehouse’s best-loved short stories, published in The Strand magazine in 1922, and in The Inimitable Jeeves in 1923.
Bertie Wooster is encouraged by his cousins Claude and Eustace to join them in the village of Twing, where the tedium of study is to be alleviated by betting on the length of neighbouring vicars’ sermons. Steggles sets the odds and handicaps, with the Rev Heppenstall favourite, with his sermon on ‘Brotherly Love’. But runners are scratched, there is much dirty work, money is lost and won, and ultimately, love triumphs, though not for Bingo Little.