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Old October 18th, 2010, 03:26 PM   #1

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Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


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Quote:
“Jolly creatures, small girls, Jeeves,” he said, after a while.
“Extremely, sir.”
“Of course, I can imagine some fellows finding them a bit exhausting ~ er -in large numbers.”
“I must confess, sir, that I used to feel that myself. In my younger days, sir, I was a servant at a school for young ladies.”
“No, really? I never knew that before. I say, Jeeves, did the -er -dear little things giggle much in your day?”
Almost all the time, sir. ,


P.G. Wodehouse, 'Bertie Changes His Mind: A story told by Jeeves', 1925.


Sunday, 24 October, 2010.

Text available at: https://sites.google.com/site/histor...ouse-the-swoop
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 05:36 PM   #2

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Introduction to P. G. Wodehouse
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This introduction to Plum ( P.G. Wodehouse) is broken into several parts. This is part one.
1. Introducing Plum

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (pronounced /ˈwʊdhaʊs/), was an exceptionally prolific writer who lived from 15 October 1881 to 14 February 1975, actively writing up until his death at 93, a career spanning over 70 years. He is primarily remembered for his humorous novels and short stories, but was engaged in musical theater as a writer of lyrics. His most famous characters are Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. Though born and educated in England, he spent most of his life living abroad in America, becoming an American citizen in 1955. Living in Northern France to escape double taxation in England and America, he was captured by the Germans in their lightening defeat of the Third Republic in May 1940. He was interned by the Germans and on release was naïve enough to be manipulated by the Nazi regime to give a series of broadcasts, aimed at his American fans, for which he was later claimed to be a
traitor to Britain. After his release from German internment, he settled in America and never returned to the land of his birth.



2. My Introduction to Wodehouse
In grade school my best friend Reginald was a few years older than me and more intellectual, or at least more literary-minded. He was always reading and often would chuckle to himself while doing so. I asked what was so funny and he showed me a Jeeves novel by P. G. Wodehouse. I didn’t follow up and read the novels myself then, being interested in other things, but did remember the name and added P. G. to my long list of authors to read some day. Reginald isn’t a common name in my neck of the woods and I found out later that Wodehouse’s most famous character Jeeves was named Reginald. This is only revealed in the penultimate book of the series and I don’t think that was written when I knew my friend Reggie. In the book when Bertie, Jeeves’s employer finds out that his valet is named Reginald ( he had always addressed him by his last name) Bertie expresses his astonishment that Jeeves has a first name!

3. Life
P. G. was born prematurely in Guildford England, while his mother, Eleanor, was visiting her sister. His father was a magistrate in Hong Kong and descended from an old aristocratic family that included Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne. His mother was a Deane, a prominent English family that could trace in its lineage Norman nobles. P. G. was named after his godfather Lieutenant-Colonel Pelham George ( Donaldson says his middle name was Grenville which makes for a more satisfyingly complete story) von Donop (28 April 1851 - 7 November 1921) an officer in the Royal Engineers and later Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways, who represented the Royal Engineers at association football, appearing in two FA Cup Finals, and made two appearances for England. To friends and family he was called Plum. He was the third son of the family with older brothers Peveril and Armine.


All of the children were given over by Eleanor to a series of nannies when Plum was two ( or three according to other sources). Eleanor was never close to her children. Plum spent only 6 months with his parents in child hood but stayed with various aunts during holidays while at boarding schools. In his later writings aunts would figure prominently and it is probably at this stage of his life that he developed his fixation on their power and influence.


Plum successively attended Dame School in Croydon, Surrey, Elizabeth College, in Guernsey, and Malvern House, a preparatory school in Kearsney, Kent. He was intended for the Navy , but his eyesight was too poor. His older brother Armine went to Oxford on a scholarship and Plum was to follow him there, but as his father’s pension pegged to the falling rupee, the money wasn’t’ available for the extra fees for two sons. Dulwich, London is where Plum settled for his advanced education, where he was a good student studying the classics, was the editor for the school paper and excelled in sports such as football. He was an accomplished athlete and did daily exercises throughout his life. While in Dulwich, h received his first payment for writing: from Public School Magazine for an article entitled “Some Aspects of Game-Captaincy.” At this time he had his first experiences with a dog and loved them for the rest of his life.
Upon graduation, his father secured him a position at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, London which is now HSBC. He had no interest in banking and quit in less than 2 years, working as a part time journalist at the Globe, a now defunct London newspaper. The Pothunters, his first book was published in 1902 and during this time he wrote some articles for Punch. He developed the mumps which is said to have left him sterile. Joining the Globe fulltime as an editor in 1903, he also wrote articles for other periodicals including Vanity Fair. Plum began his work in the theater during this time working as a lyricist Aldwych Theatre, working on The Beauty of Bath where he met Jerome Kern. Love Amongst the Chickens, his first adult novel was published in 1906 in London.

Greenwich Village in New York was his home in 1909 beginning his American career. He survived selling stories to American Journals such as Cosmopolitan, Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post. While in New York be began collaborating with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern and eventually wrote 18 musical comedies, the first of which, A Gentleman of Leisure, opened in New York, 1911. He returned for a year to London for theatrical work, producing two plays which weren’t finical successes.

On return to New York in 1914, he met Ethel Rowley, née Newton, an English widow, at a New York party and married her two months later. Ethyl had a daughter Leonora from her prior marriage which Plum came to adore, adopting her at a later date.

The Saturday Evening Post serialized stories where his most famous characters Jeeves and Bertie ( in Extricating Young Gussie) and Lord Elmsworth ( in Something New) were introduced in 1915.
The years leading up to world war II saw Plum traveling between America, particularly Hollywood where he worked on movie scripts, and London. He published works in both Britain and America and was taxed on them in both countries. He had multiple squabbles with the American tax authorities in particular and had his case heard before the U. S. Supreme Court, where he won on some points and lost on others. To escape what he viewed as unfair taxation, he settled in northern France at Le Touquet in June 1934. He had another short stint writing for movies in Hollywood in 1936. History overtook the Wodehouse’s in May 1940 with the lightening advance of the German Army into northern France. Politically uninterested, naive most would say, in politics, he underestimated the seriousness of the events of the phony war and the blitzkrieg, and tried to escape too late. Ethyl and Plum had several Pekingese dogs that they loved dearly and hesitated to leave for Britain because of the stringent quarantine there would require prolonged separation form their beloved pets. When they finally did try and outrun the advancing Germans in their automobile loaded with their dogs, they had several breakdowns and were captured on 21 May.


The Germans interned civilians from belligerent countries if they were younger than 60 years of age, figuring that anyone older than that was too enfeebled or senile to effect any sabotage; when captured, Plum was 58 meaning that he was separated from Ethyl and interned, effectively imprisoned till his release in 21 June 1941 several months prior to his 60th birthday. He was treated relatively well by the Germans, some of which were a fan of his works. He was imprisoned successively in Lille, Liege, Huy and Tost in Upper Silesia. He kept a diary while interned that he later developed for publication, but never did. His days in internment were focused on survival, though he did manage some writing. He lost weight and said that he was in the most terrific shape of his life. He didn’t loos his sense of humor though. There were three time consuming “parades” a day in which the inmates were assembled in the yard in rows of five for counting to ascertain that there hadn’t been any escapes. In his journal he wrote that “if after the war I have any money, I’m going to by me a German and keep him in the garden and count him.” Of transfer to Upper Silesia he wrote, “if this is Upper Silesia, I’d hate to see Lower Silesia.”

Plum was released on 21 June 1941, 4 months before his 60th birthday, and taken to Berlin where he consented to do five nonpolitical broadcasts for American audiences under the direction of Harry Flannery, the representative of the Columbia Broadcasting System. Plum believed that these broadcasts would be a boost to his fans in America, major part of his fan base, with which he hoped to show that he was still alive, well and still writing. These concerned his internment experiences and were humorous in nature. His detractors insisted that this early release was a quid-pro –quo for the broadcasts which Plum denied. There was a petition for his early release organized by his American friend Guy Bolton and signed by many prominent Americans which may have actually lead to his early release.
In his In Defense Of P. G. Wodehouse, Windmill, July 1946 George Orwell, opines that the timing, several days before Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union was critical to German plans as they wanted to placate America and keep it out of the war at this crucial juncture. The broadcasts, could, help in a substantial way achieve this end.


The broadcasts met with immediate censure in Britain, with accusations of collaboration and even treason. Particularly objectionable was the following passage that he intended to be humorous.
"In the days before the war I had always been modestly proud of being an Englishman, but now that I have been some months resident in this bin or repository of Englishmen I am not so sure. ... The only concession I want from Germany is that she gives me a loaf of bread, tells the gentlemen with muskets at the main gate to look the other way, and leaves the rest to me. In return I am prepared to hand over India, an autographed set of my books, and to reveal the secret process of cooking sliced potatoes on a radiator. This offer holds good till Wednesday week."
Also offensive to British ears was when he stated that "whether Britain wins the war or not."
Quoting from Orwell’s Defense.

These broadcasts caused an immediate uproar in England. There were questions in Parliament, angry editorial comments in the press, and a stream of letters from fellow-authors, nearly all of them disapproving, though one or two suggested that it would be better to suspend judgment, and several pleaded that Wodehouse probably did not realize what he was doing. On 15th July, the Home Service of the B.B.C. carried an extremely violent Postscript by "Cassandra" of the Daily Mirror, accusing Wodehouse of "selling his country." This postscript made free use of such expressions as "Quisling" and "worshiping the Fuhrer." The main charge was that Wodehouse had agreed to do German propaganda as a way of buying himself out of the internment camp.

"Cassandra's" Postscript caused a certain amount of protest, but on the whole it seems to have intensified popular feeling against Wodehouse. One result of it was that numerous lending libraries withdrew Wodehouse's books from circulation. Here is a typical news item:

"Within twenty-four hours of listening to the broadcast of Cassandra, the Daily Mirror columnist, Portadown (North Ireland) Urban District Council banned P. G. Wodehouse's books from their public library. Mr. Edward McCann said that Cassandra's broadcast had clinched the matter. Wodehouse was funny no longer." (Daily Mirror.)
Plum remained in Berlin at the famous Adlon Hotel while doing the broadcasts and was later entertained by his friend the German aristocrat Baroness Reihild von Bodenhausen, who later wrote memoirs about her experiences. His expenses while he remained in Germany and occupied Paris, to which he moved in Sept 1943, for the next few years were in part paid for by the Nazis, though Plum insisted that he borrowed money or sold personal items to support himself during this interval. He never returned to Britain fearing that he would be arrested and tired as a traitor.
Wodehouse was formally investigated by MI 5 and concluded that his actions were not that of a traitor or collaborator, but were only naive and foolish. Wodehouse himself stated later that they were a “silly ass” thing to have done.


On May 16 1944 Leonora, Plums step-daughter died unexpectedly at an early age, 40’s, a blow to both P. G. and Ethyl.
The Wodehouse’s moved to New York in April 1947 , later buying a house in Remsberg, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Part two tomorrow
Below- Plum later in life in America with one of his dogs.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:13 PM   #3

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Great intro. Looking forward to tomorrow's.


I must confess Wodehouse is one of those authors I have always meant to get around to reading but never did. I enjoyed this first encounter with him as a unexpected pleasure. I initially feared something along the line of dry-as-dust wit.
I recently saw a rerun of Fraser which obviously borrowed Jeeves as their model. That episode had the same theme of the servant as the behind the scene master of unceremonious circumstances.
It is also a joy to read something that doesn’t make demands on the reader to pry loose its Freudian or Jungian secrets.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 01:44 AM   #4

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Thank you for your excellent brief bio of Wodehouse, Cicero! I've been a fan of his writing since boyhood. I think that his reputation in England has never really recovered from the "collaboration" accusations. Though there exists a P G Wodehouse Society in the UK, you will find only a small corner of one very small museum dedicated to him. There is also a Wodehouse Society in the US. Just for interest, I'll include a picture of Wodehouse's birthplace, with a close-up of the "blue plaque" attached to it. You can click on the images to see a larger version.

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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:20 AM   #5

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


One other interesting angle on Wodehouse is that he was a contempory of Raymond Chandler at Dulwich College - he of Philip Marlowe and The Big Sleep fame. Apparently critics have found many similarities in their writing styles and trace this back to the influence of their English master at Dulwich. For us to find the parallels then between Blandings, Jeeves and Bertie and Marlowe and the Big Sleep. "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun." "You can't go round London asking people to pretend to be Gussie Fink-Nottle... Well you can I suppose, but what a hell of a life."

Toodle pip.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:39 AM   #6

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Cicero,

Brilliant intro - nicely written, easily and enjoyably read. Thank you.

I'm with Pedro in so far as being a newcomer to Wodehouse. I found the few shorts I've so-far read highly entertaining. Clarence Chugwater's childhood romantic adventures were an impetus to read more. Jeeves and Wooster are a great character (note the singularity) and it is unsurprising that Wodehouse got so much mileage from it.

(As an aside, ([ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertie_Changes_His_Mind"]according to Wiki[/ame]) 'Bertie Changes his Mind' was augmented into the short novel, Right Ho, Jeeves in 1934. I've added this work (plus The Swoop!) to our resources page should anyone wish to read it also.)

Last edited by avon; October 25th, 2010 at 11:42 AM.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:51 AM   #7

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Quote:
Originally Posted by Paulinus View Post
One other interesting angle on Wodehouse is that he was a contempory of Raymond Chandler at Dulwich College - he of Philip Marlowe and The Big Sleep fame. Apparently critics have found many similarities in their writing styles and trace this back to the influence of their English master at Dulwich. For us to find the parallels then between Blandings, Jeeves and Bertie and Marlowe and the Big Sleep. "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun." "You can't go round London asking people to pretend to be Gussie Fink-Nottle... Well you can I suppose, but what a hell of a life."

Toodle pip.

I'm not familiar with Marlowe (yet!), but I wonder how much of Wodehouse's style is derived from his misplaced (or transferred) epithets. One phrase that sticks out (from Right Ho, Jeeves), iirc) is:
It was the hottest day of the summer, and though somebody had opened a tentative window or two, the atmosphere remained distinctive and individual.
Similarly, from Uneasy Money:
He was now smoking a sad cigarette and waiting for the blow to fall.
These phrases don't come about too often, but when they do, they are indeed memorable. Then, of course, there are all those colloquialisms that inform us that Wooster is a rightly aristocratic (what ho!) hob-nob.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 07:39 AM   #8

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Quote:
Originally Posted by avon View Post
I'm not familiar with Marlowe (yet!), but I wonder how much of Wodehouse's style is derived from his misplaced (or transferred) epithets. One phrase that sticks out (from Right Ho, Jeeves), iirc) is:
It was the hottest day of the summer, and though somebody had opened a tentative window or two, the atmosphere remained distinctive and individual.
Similarly, from Uneasy Money:
He was now smoking a sad cigarette and waiting for the blow to fall.
These phrases don't come about too often, but when they do, they are indeed memorable. Then, of course, there are all those colloquialisms that inform us that Wooster is a rightly aristocratic (what ho!) hob-nob.
Oh you hit right on why I like Plum... his unconventional use of language.
I will be posting many of these later. Here is one of my favorites.

From Jeeves in the Offing, describing Bertie looking forward with eager anticipation the arrival of an acquaintance.

"I looked at him like a wolf spotting his Russian peasant."

I guffawed out load upon reading that one!

Last edited by Cicero; October 24th, 2010 at 08:34 AM.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 09:12 AM   #9

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Quote:
"I looked at him like a wolf spotting his Russian peasant."

I guffawed out load upon reading that one!
So did I, just now!

Quote:
I think that his reputation in England has never really recovered from the "collaboration" accusations.
Do you think so? I can't remember ever hearing anyone hold this against him, most people seem to regard him as having been nothing more than naive.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 01:31 PM   #10

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Re: Wodehouse, Bertie Changes His Mind


Speaking of naive. Can you imagine this story passing a modern editor's indigination where early in the story they stop the car to pick up a 12 year old school girl? And a stranger to boot. Maybe the times back then weren't really so innocent but is was a comfortable fiction for us to believe it was.

Anyway I am hooked on Wodehouse. I was delighted to find that Project Gutenberg has quite a few titles to read on line or print out.
http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/w#a783
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