Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was an English satirist, author and a comic novelist who created the famous fictional characters of Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves. In his unusual seventy three years long career, Wodehouse wrote 15 plays and 250 lyrics for over 30 musical comedies and earned praise as a Master of parody and English prose. The writer witnessed an enormous success for his works such as The Inimitable Jeeves, Carry on Jeeves, Right Ho Jeeves and still continues to be read worldwide. He also worked as a playwright and lyricist, writing lyrics for numerous songs, including the same for the hit song Bill in Snow Boat. A number of his plays, including A Damsel in Distress and The Girl On The Boat have made it to the silver screen and have been adopted in to film. In his later years, Wodehouse took a permanent residence in the United States following a political upheaval in England causing his arrest and imprisonment for suspected treachery.
Childhood & Education
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born on 15 October 1881 in Guildford, England to Henry Ernest Wodehouse and his wife Eleanor Wodehouse and was the third of four sons born to his parents. Wodehouse's father was a British Judge in Hong Kong at the time of his birth and after living with his parents for sometime, Wodehouse was sent to England for schooling. In 1894, he was admitted in to Dulwich College where he did well in both academics and sports and edited the college magazine Alleynian for two years. He also actively participated in musical and theatrical roles, and represented his school at Rugby and boxing. He received his graduate degree in 1900.
Two years after his graduation, Wodehouse took up a job with the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank in London, (Today's HSBC), but soon realized his lack of interest in Banking. He left the job and started to write, alternating between England and the United States. In 1902, he received his first job as a journalist and began working with a newspaper The Globe where he was responsible for the comic column. His first novel The Pothunters was published in year 1902 followed by A Perfect Uncle in 1903, Love Among the Chickens in 1906, The Swoop in 1909 and P smith in The City in 1910.
Other novels The Prince and Betty and P Smith, Journalist came in 1914 and 1915 respectively. He resigned from the paper and began to write for Vanity Fair. Aside from this, he wrote stories for school magazines, and worked as a freelancer for magazines as Cosmopolitan and Collier's. He also collaborated with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern and began writing lyrics for musical comedies. Around 1930, Wodehouse gained opportunities to work as screenwriter in Hollywood, for which he boasted to have received huge money. His novels were also published in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and The Strand which gave him further exposure and cemented his financial stability.
Marriage & Children
Wodehouse married Ethel Wayman in 1914 in New York. The couple did not have their own child and Wodehouse informally adopted Leonora, Ethel's daughter from her previous marriage. It is also suggested that Wodehouse was rendered infertile after contracting mumps in his childhood- May be factor that he did not have any biological child. Leonora died during his internment in Germany.
Life Abroad and Political upheavals
After the year 1914, Wodehouse kept on moving between England and the United States and settled in France in 1934. Even with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, instead of returning to his homeland, he decided to remain there- only to be arrested by the Germans in 1940. He was detained for almost one year during which he first kept in Belgium and then transferred to Tost (Toszek) in Upper Silesia. After his release, He spoke of his experience in Radio broadcasts to his fans in America from Berlin making small jokes. However, a war time England did not take these comments well and it led to speculations about his alleged collaboration with the Nazis.
Now what was started with a foolish act of Wodehouse, turned into severe accusations and he was charged with treason. The government passed orders banning and censoring his books and several libraries in England removed his books from their shelves. He faced accusations and criticism from all sides. Still there were few people who defended him and tried to establish his innocence in the matter. Among them were Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell. Investigations ensued, and it was revealed that he was imprudent but not a traitor.
Later Life & Death
However, the incident made him leave England permanently and Wodehouse and his wife settled in New York, where they lived in Remsen burg, Long Island until his death. They never returned to his homeland and became U.S. citizens in 1955. In 1975 Wodehouse was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, at the age of 93. The award was received by his wife on his behalf because of poor health condition.
P.G. Wodehouse died on 14 February 1975 and now rests in the Remsen Burg Cemetery in New York State USA. His wife Ethel was buried next to him after her death in 1984. In 2000, The Bollinger everyman Wodehouse Prize was created dedicating it to him and is awarded for the best comic writing in the UK each year.
After becoming a US citizen and away from controversy, Wodehouse continued to write actively and fiercely. His prodigious output during this period include Meet Mr. Milliner (1927), Doctor Sally (1932), Quick Service (1940), The Old Reliable (1951), Uneasy Money (1917), A Damsel In Distress (1919), Jill The Reckless (1920), The Adventures of Sally (1923), A Pelican at Blandings (1969), The Girl In Blue (1971). He wrote his last novel in 1974- Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. Performing Flea: a self-portrait in letters'(1953) - his autobiographical piece published posthumously.